One of my favorite things is seeing kids who are innately gentle and loving towards animals and seeing their faces light up when they encounter a dog on the street. Sometimes, however, our kids get overcome by excitement and glee so that their friendly behavior can be misinterpreted as aggressive by dogs, putting them in danger of a 'fight' or 'flight' response. The three rules we've listed below are things that all children should be taught before approaching dogs, and rules we think adults and kids alike should always keep in mind.
Don't Approach Unfamiliar Dogs
Stranger danger applies to dogs as well. Not all dogs are comfortable with unfamiliar people, and this especially applies to dogs who are tied up or confined in a car. If the dog feels like she is in danger, she'll go into 'fight' or 'flight' mode, and without the 'flight' option, she'll likely get aggressive. Teach your kids that they are never to approach unfamiliar dogs, and if they really do want to greet the dog, they can say a verbal hello from a safe distance away.
Always Ask to Pet a Dog
This rule should be followed by everyone, not just kids. Before petting a new dog, always ask the owner first if you can pet the dog. There are many dogs who are either afraid of strangers or can't be touched at the time due to recovery from surgery or other health-related reasons. Make sure that your kids understand the importance of this as a courtesy to the dog and as part of being a responsible animal-lover.
Adult Supervision Is Always Necessary
Okay, as much as we love Peter Pan, a dog is not a sufficient substitute for adult supervision. Even if the dog in question is the neighborhood dog with which your kids have grown up and has the calmest temperament on the block, that doesn't mean your kids won't do something that may be misinterpreted as dangerous or aggressive by the dog. Always keep a watchful eye on both the children and dogs when they're playing and be aware of the dog becoming uncomfortable. Many times, actions that kids think are loving such as kissing, hugging, or tugging, will only be tolerated for so long by many dogs.