Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dog Etiquette

We have a dog, for the lucky two of you who may not know. Come this March Indi will have survived 4 years in our house (by the grace of something). Dan and I have worked harder with this dog to teach her some sort of sanity than I have worked on almost any other ongoing project in my life. She's made leaps and bounds from where she once was, she's still a lunatic, but we kinda love her. Her tenure in our house has come into questions a few times but...well...we never could find a new home for her for I think she's here to stay...for now (I like to keep my options open).

With all that said, I've learned a thing or two over the years about how other people react to dogs. Nowhere is this more apparent than in public places where kids are around. A few weeks ago I had Indi with me at the Farmer's Market in Provo and a little boy (about 4?) came running up to her and started pulling on her ears and trying to give her a hug. Indi was on a leash sitting right next to me. After a sec she snapped menacingly at the boy. No contact was made but it scared me to death. Apart from the trauma of having her bite an unknown kid, I wouldn't want to face the probable legal issues of such an occurrence.

Since then I have been very wary to take Indi out in public. A few days ago I decided this poor dog had to get out of the house so we've been walking to the park. I ALWAYS keep her on her leash at the park right by my side. I never leave her unattended and make sure I know what's happening with her at all times.

Today I was sitting on a bench while Eli played and Indi was laying right by my feet. A little girl came running up to us and started petting Indi and grabbing at her fur. I asked the little girl to please not touch my dog but she kept petting her. Indi is generally pretty good with kids and wasn't doing much but I didn't want to take any chances. I stood up and walked over to another bench. The little girl followed and would not leave us alone. I finally spotted her mother sitting on the grass watching all this happen. As I tried to fend off the kid I just got fed up and grabbed Eli and we headed home.

That got me to thinking. Dog owners have a responsibility to keep their dogs under control in public no doubt. BUT. The public has a keen responsibility to know how to interact with dogs they don't know. And parents most definitely have a responsibility to teach their kids how to treat a strange dog. So-here's my list of dog etiquette for parents with kids.

  • Teach your kids to NEVER approach a leashed or unleashed dog unless they directly ask the dog owner for permission. NEVER.
  • Have the child extend his or her hand to let the dog smell it. This is like a hand shake for dogs.
  • Teach your kids the appropriate ways to handle a dog ...ie don't let them pull fur, tails, or ears, even if the dog owner says the dog is ok with it. It leads to bad habits and they may find a dog sometime that isn't as amiable.
  • If a dog owner asks your child at any time to stop petting the dog or move away make sure they know to listen and act.
  • Above all teach your kids to respect dogs and treat them with care and caution.
If a dog bites a kid in public is is, of course, the dog owner's responsibility, but having a child who is well trained around dogs makes things easier for everyone.

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