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How to introduce your child to a strange dog

Dogs may be man's best friend, but any animal can be dangerous to a small child. Parents and guardians should take precautions to avoid trouble.

Maybe you are staying with old family friends for a week, and they have a dog. Or perhaps you have a lot of friends who own dogs. Whatever the case, it is a good idea to have a plan for introducing your child to dogs new to them.

Explain the dog’s perspective

Kids may be more likely to follow your guidelines if they know the reasons behind them. Therefore, explain what is likely going on in the dog’s mind. Point out that many dogs are small compared to children — and these children are new to the dogs, too. A dog may be scared of a child’s high-pitched noises and sudden movements, among other things. If overly frightened, the dog might bite.

Develop rapport with the dog slowly

Adults should supervise children with dogs at all times. They should see that a rapport is developing appropriately and intervene if a situation gets dangerous and could lead to a personal injury. Tell your children to move slowly and gently with the dog, with no poking, pinching or pulling. You could even have your kids practice on stuffed animals prior to meeting the pet and make a game of it.

A general good guideline is for children to offer a closed fist for the dog to sniff. If that goes well, they can pet the dog’s head and neck, while avoiding the tail, stomach and paws.

Model good behavior

Act with the dog the way you would want your children to. That is, no roughhousing and no putting your face near the dog’s. Also follow similar procedures for each and every dog you meet. You may have known your neighbor’s dog Fido for years and assume he will play just fine with anyone. However, there is no telling how Fido might react to a strange child, so any kids need to be cautious.

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