Friending Fido: Talking to kids about greeting new dogs safely

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."

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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."