#2. Invites decrease frights and bites.
There are numerous things that cause dogs to be nervous. In 13 years of training I have yet to meet a dog – even my own who LOVES children – that feels completely comfortable with a small person approaching them. If I’m being completely honest here, I must admit that I often brace myself when being approached by my own kids. It’s a mystery whether they will gently climb in my lap and offer a tender snuggle or exuberantly pounce and execute a choke hold neck hug. Dogs often exhibit subtle signs of stress by doing things like turning away, looking at their trusted adult for rescue, lip licking, and even kissing. In these situations, those signals can easily go unnoticed or be greatly misinterpreted.
Simple kissy noises or calling the dog’s name and patting your leg are easy ways to ask the dog if they would like to interact. When you teach children to calmly invite a dog to them, instead of approaching a dog, then you allow the dog a choice in the interaction. By giving the dog the opportunity to express its comfort level and choose to freely come to you and the child by invitation, as well as allowing the dog to walk away at any time, you empower your children to initiate safe interaction with dogs. Whether at home, a friend’s house, or the park “Invites decrease bites and frights.” is an excellent mantra to teach and practice.
Be sure to check back next month for insightful tip #3 on Fostering Friendships Between Dogs and Toddlers.