How can you show a young child the correct way to pet a dog?
Dogs are often suspicious of young children because they cannot make the connection in their minds that children and adults are essentially the same species. Children display different characteristics than adults, so the connection is hard to make for a dog. Because of this fact, dogs are generally trusting and accepting of adults, but this does not mean that they will be trusting and accepting of children. Most dogs are cautious of children, and therefore children need to be taught to be cautious and gentle with dogs as well.
Teaching a young child the correct way to pet a dog is important for both the child and the dog. The child will learn to bond with the dog in a safe manner, and the canine will learn to trust that the child is not trying to harm it. Teach a child that a dog relies heavily on its sense of smell, so the first step is to slowly hold out a hand for the dog to sniff. This is the initial introduction for both the dog and the child.
The best way for a child to pet a dog is to have the dog sit down, so that you are more in control of the situation. After the dog has sniffed the child’s hand, have the child gently pet the dog’s chest. This placement is much less confrontational and frightening than petting a dog on the head. Once the dog is comfortable with the child and their touch, practice petting the dog slowly on the back and the head.