Friending Fido: Talking to kids about greeting new dogs safely

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

ESSEX -- The warm weather is here. Kids and pups are out to play but not every child knows how to greet a new dog safely. Joe Wasyl of Essex is often surprised at how Marmaduke-loving tots treat his Great Dane, T-Bone.

"You’ll get kids running and screaming, 'Scooby,' and the parents are kind of nowhere to be found in the immediate area," he said.

"You have to respect a dog’s space," said Branford dog trainer Michelle McAdam.  "What scares me is that a dog feels very vulnerable when you rush up and go right in the dogs space."

For more stories about pets and animals, click here.

Folks can avoid bad scenes with a few simple rules.  McAdam, who has been training dogs for 21 years, said all parents should teach their kids how to greet a new dog safely and with respect.

A kid should never hug a new dog but he should ask the following questions:  "May I pet your dog?  Is he friendly?"

If he gets the go-ahead, approach Fido calmly - not from the back or the front.

"If you’re going to approach a dog, make a very wide berth - not head on - and put your hands down and let the dog check you out," said McAdam.

These guidelines apply to all dogs - not just very large ones.  McAdam has been called the Dog Whisperer.

"When you’re referred to as a Dog Whisperer it’s because you read dogs you speak their language," she said.  "Humans put a lot of pressure on dogs to think like a human.  And they don’t.  They’re dogs."

When kids approach T-Bone correctly, he responds well.  He's not afraid or nervous.  It's a good situation for everyone.

"I just explain to them, 'You can meet him but one at a time and be very careful and no screaming,'” said Wasyl.  "You know what?  It’s just very comfortable."