Kids & Cavaliers
Peanut butter & jelly. Chocolate & milk. Ice cream & sprinkles. And of course kids & Cavaliers.
A natural, kindred spirit thrives between children and dogs. They understand each other because both kids and dogs share a purity of the soul, and a loving innocence.
I have witnessed the amazing bond between children and dogs while walking on the street with my 3 Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and when my nieces and nephews have visited New York City.
I am in awe of how easily children understand the needs of a dog, and equally how a dog understands the needs of a child.
However both children and dogs need to be instructed on the appropriate behavior when interacting with each other.
I think it is wonderful when a child politely asks if they can pet my dog. Often I will hear the parent say to the child - “Ask if you can pet the dog. And remember, first let the dog smell the back of your hand.” This parent has instructed their child on how to approach an unfamiliar dog.
I have 3 dogs, and each one has its own temperament, so I have the responsibility as a pet owner to guide the person asking to approach my dogs.
Lulu Belle is friendly, and loves everyone. She is always delighted when people want to pet her, especially children. Lulu Belle is so welcoming of attention and affection that she prefers to stand in one spot on the side walk, make eye contact with people walking by, and hopefully lure them into stopping to pet her.
C.C. Belle is fearful because of her medical condition called syringomyelia (S.M.), which causes pain in her neck, ears and head. I deter people from approaching her because I am not certain how she will react. She is on medication which lessens her pain, however I am still very cautious. When people are petting Lulu Belle, C.C. Belle often ventures over to the action, either out of curiosity or jealousy. Still, I make sure that I keep her on a tight leash, and warn people that she does not like to be stroked.
Riece, my boy dog, is more interested in the variety of scents coating the streets of New York City, so he is not inclined to be stroked or petted.
I believe it is essential for both parents and pet owners to observe ‘Dog Contact’ etiquette.
Dog Contact Etiquette Instructions for Parents:
- If your child wants to approach or pet a dog ALWAYS ask the owner before engaging with the dog! Some dogs are friendly and some are not. A responsible owner will know the disposition of their dog and inform you.
- Before the child pets the dog, have the child let the dog sniff and/or lick the top of the child’s hand. The best way to do this is have the child curl their fingers into a loose fist, and let the dog smell the top of their hand.
- Initially the best place to stroke a dog is on their back while looking into the dog’s eyes. If the dog is responsive, the child may begin to stroke the dog’s head.
- If the child is a toddler, it is important that the parent help the child pet the dog by holding the child’s hand. It also helps to instruct the child to ‘be gentle’, as children of this age often do not know their own strength, and may accidentally hurt or frighten the dog.
- If the child is older, do not let them run up to the dog, as this may frighten even the most docile dogs. The child should walk up to the dog, and if it is O.K. with the owner, then the child should follow the instructions above.
- Parents should remember that even domesticated and friendly dogs are still animals. If a child wants to pet an unfamiliar dog, please make sure to stay close and supervise the interaction closely.
Dog Contact Etiquette Instructions for Dog Owners:
- The most important issue for owners is to know how your pet reacts with strangers, be it adults or children. If your dog is fearful, aggressive, or may bite, please be responsible and tell anyone who wants to pet your dog that your dog is not friendly.
- Be aware of your dog’s temperament on a daily basis. Dogs can be subject to mood changes because of the weather, season, time of day, or activity. Sometimes your pet may not want to be approached. Watch the pet’s body language and movements closely.
- If your dog likes strangers, and is open to being stroked and petted, always be alert to any change in the behavior of your dog. I suggest always keeping the dog on a tight lead/leash just in case of behavioral changes.
- If a child is petting your dog, I suggest that you kneel down with both your dog and the child. Your pet will feel more comfortable, and if the child accidently gets rough, or strokes your dog in a strange way, you can gently correct the behavior.
- It is also fun to talk to the child about the dog’s name, the age of the dog, and any other special information about your pet. On numerous occasions, I have run into a child who remembers my dogs’ names and their ages and we have a playful conversation.
- If you and the parent feel comfortable, you can let the child give the dog a small treat. Magically, a bond happens. The dog is happy, the child laughs, and we again are reminded why there should always be kids and dogs in our lives.