The first bad experience I can remember having as a child was being bitten by a dog. That didn’t deter me in the least but it’s as fresh in my mind today as it was the day it happened. My mother took me in tow to run a few errands. One of the stops was the home of a neighborhood dressmaker, to have some summer outfits tailored. Within two minutes of entering the dressmakers’ home, I spotted a Chow Chow standing in her living room. Eager to show my love for this beautiful dog, I ran toward the dog and wrapped my arms around its furry neck. I was lucky that my injuries were limited to a small bite on my arm and a more severe bite and rip of my right earlobe.

Then, it was only one incident in a childhood chain of events of bites, scratches, and bruises. My parents warned me by sternly saying, “keep your hands to yourself” every time we would see a dog.

Now, I take pet parents and dogs to public areas for socialization skill training. The purpose of the training is to teach dogs not to jump on, bark at or even touch people in stores or other public places. We practice passing people while walking and having people pass the dog while the dog is in a sit/stay or down position.

Without hesitation and without asking permission, children and adults reach out to touch every dog. Though I didn’t want to hear “keep your hands to yourself” at the time, my parents were on the right track. It is dangerous to reach out and touch a dog no matter how friendly they appear, how cute they look, how well behaved they may seem, or how small they are.

Never approach a dog until permission is granted and even then use caution. Don’t bend and don’t put your face down to the dog. Children should ask their parents and parents should ask the pet parent or guardian of the dog for permission to approach. If you are told that it’s ok to pet the dog, be respectful of any instructions that might be given by the dog’s guardian

They may instruct their dog to sit and stay before being pet. Approach gently and never try to touch the dog’s head! Extend a hand slowly palm up, under the dog’s muzzle.

If a dog appears to be in training, it’s usually best to stay away. If a dog is a service dog or service dog in training, definitely do not attempt to pet the dog. Service dogs do not need to wear a vest or have any other item like a tag to identify or certify them as being service dogs. You will be told by the dog’s guardian.

Please teach your children not to run up to a strange dog and that all dogs are not friendly.

As a dog trainer, I teach dogs to “keep their paws on the ground”.  I’m sure that “keep your hands at your sides, in your pockets, or behind your back” until given the ok to pet another person’s dog, is a better choice of words than my parents used.

However, for the safety and well-being of everyone involved, “keep your hands and your paws to yourself” sums it up.




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