Pat, Pet, Pause!


Dogs are like magnets for many children, drawing them in with squeals of delight and grasping little fingers. Nevertheless, the same gestures, sounds, and posture that might reward a child with a chocolate chip cookie from Great Aunt Mable could result in a growl, nip, or worse from an unfamiliar dog. Fortunately, there’s a handy and highly alliterative way to remember how to greet an unfamiliar dog: PAT, PET, PAUSE.

PAT: Pat your leg to encourage the dog to come into your space. Don’t invade his.

PET: Pet the dog on his shoulder or side, not the top of his head or around his eyes or mouth.

PAUSE: Pause in your petting to give the dog a break and let him decide if he wants to continue or take a break.

It’s also important to add one more “P” to the beginning this phrase: PLEASE. Children (and adults for that matter) should always ask the dog’s handler before approaching an unfamiliar dog. And children should have their caregiver’s permission, too.