You see an adorable dog. You should a) pet the top of his head, b) shower him with hugs and kisses, c) get in his face. Answer: None. While some dogs like to receive hugs and kisses, always refrain from showing a dog affection until you get to know him.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dogs bite more than 4.7 million people a year, with 800,000 Americans seeking medical attention -- half of them are children. The rate of dog bite-related injuries is highest for children ages 5 to 9 years, says the CDC. Clearly, children are most likely to hug and kiss dogs, which is why they often end up getting bit. That's why dog bite prevention is especially crucial for children.
Hugging and Kissing
In the canine world, dogs depend on scent to get to know one another. They do not rush up and hug one another, although if a dog grabs another dog it is done so as a sexual or aggressive advance. Hugging a dog is interpreted as restraint, and getting in a dog's face, such as kissing, might lead to biting, because dogs often bite one another on the snout.
Do's & Don'ts
For safety's sake, never pet a dog on the top of his head, because a quick movement of the hand can spook him, causing him to interpret your movement as an aggressive gesture. Always show your hand before petting, and extend the back of your hand. Only one person should pet a dog at once. Finally, wagging tails don't always mean happiness; a low tail wag or wagging between the legs may indicate fear and apprehension.
If you've raised your dog from a puppy and have always given him lots of affection, then of course continue to give hugs and kisses profusely. But always pay attention to your dog's body language and behavior -- he might not be feeling well, for example -- especially when strangers or children wish to greet him. Dogs have bad days, just as people do. Always take your dog's behavior and feelings into account before showering him with affection.
- John Howard/Lifesize/Getty Images