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This past Saturday I did a book signing at the General Mercantile in Tishomingo, Mississippi. I advertised the event as a "Hand and Paw" signing as I took my dog Seamus with me. Many children came to the event to meet the little hero of the "Seamus the Sheltie" books.

It was interesting for me to watch the different children and how they approached me and my dog. I concluded that there were some valuable lessons from that event that would be helpful to pass along to my readers.

Some children approached my dog in an appropriate and respectful manner. Others behaved in a potentially dangerous and rude fashion that on occasion forced me to protect my dog from them! Fortunately for the kids, Seamus is very well behaved and extremely gentle around children.  

As you might expect, the children that were on the edge of being out of control were the ones racing around the store and generally annoying everyone else. The parents of these kids were ignoring them completely – or making some ridiculous statement like, "Isn't he cute!" No lady – he is not cute.  

One child simply raced up and waving his arms, screamed in the face of Seamus. I quickly put my hand between my dog and the savage little kid and told him to stop because he was scaring Seamus.  I admit there were times when it was very difficult for me to keep my mouth shut and remember that I was a guest in someone else's house.

My biggest concern was the risky behavior around animals that these children were displaying. Here are some tips on how to keep your child safer around strange dogs. These guidelines should be taught to all children at an early age'  

1) If a person is with the animal, always ask if you can pet it first. Many dogs are not friendly to strangers and may bite.

2) Never – never – rush up to the animal and grab it unexpectedly. Doing that is almost certain to promote a reaction from the dog. If the dog doesn't react aggressively, it may accidentally injure the child trying to get away from what it perceives as an attacker.

3) Teach the child to always be gentle and kind with any animal. They are alive, have feelings, and are not a play toy.

4) Avoid sudden loud noises and large unexpected movements around a dog. It is not recommended to scream and jump up and down. These will frighten or startle the animal. Again, you may not like the reaction.

5) Parents – keep an eye on the animal and watch for its body language. Suddenly dropping the tail down, narrowing of the eyes, laying its ears back against the head, and lowering its neck are signs of potential aggression.

6) If there are no adults with a strange dog – teach your child to simply stay away from it. There are too many stories these days of children being mauled by strange dogs. Never approach a strange animal. Most will be friendly – some will not be. Never let your child take that chance.

With a little effort you can teach your child to be safer around animals and to enjoy the many wonderful things that they add to our lives.

**James is a Masters level Child Psychologist and Internationally Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor who has worked with distressed families for 40 years. He is the author of the Seamus the Sheltie series of children's books that were designed to assist parents in discussing difficult issues with younger children. Both books have received multiple national awards from parenting organizations. Mr. Beverly has written and published articles on parenting in a variety of media.

Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Lisa Middlesworth wrote Dec 15, 2009
    • This is exactly what I taught my children when they were younger. They both love and have the utmost respect for all animals.
      Thanks for sharing this. I have two small dogs that are totally harmless, but when someone comes up very fast, it scares them.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      UK Girl wrote Dec 15, 2009
    • James – you are so right. We have a little man Biggie (Chihuahua) and when we are out and he is in my arms the amount of people who just walk up and put their hand out to pat his head – I have to stop them as they can't realise their hand must seem huge to him and look like he is about to be hit – hence the reason so many little dogs can be quite aggressive – or small out of control children shouting or running at him and trying to grab him ....... when you explain to thier parents I have had comments like "if he is dangerous he shouldn't be out " to "well if he is like that why have him as a pet" .... he is not aggressive or nasty just doesn't like huge people or children pouncing on him as he is little .......
      People have no respect

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