who's in the wrong?

Woman Sparks Debate After Suggesting Child Be Leashed After Running Up To Her Dog

The anecdote sparked a huge discourse about dogs and kid safety.

Originally Published: 
One parent got herself into a tiff with a woman who was minding her business with her service dog wh...
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Anytime my daughter and I encounter a dog, I always remind her that we need to ask permission before approaching and petting that dog. This especially goes for service dogs. Those kinds of dogs we ignore completely. They’re working dogs with a job to do — protect and care for their owner. There are plenty of other puppies to pet in the world. Under no circumstances will my daughter ever run up to a dog and begin to pet them.

One parent didn’t understand this assignment and got herself into a tiff with a woman who was minding her business with her service dog when her toddler approached without warning or permission.

Lynne Schmidt relayed the frustrating experience on her X account.

She wrote, “Small child runs up to Zoë. I body block and say, ‘Maybe we don’t run up to dogs we don’t know.’ The parent: She’s three Me: If she isn’t on voice recall, maybe she should be leashed?”

Oof, got her! Yes, she did compare that three-year-old to a dog that needs to be leashed. Yes, lots of parents may find that utterly offensive, but if Zoë wasn’t a good dog with self control. That outcome could have been so much worse.

After Schmidt’s X post went viral, several other users weighed in with their opinions on leashing kids and the dangers of running up on dogs without asking permission from owners.

“Honestly, I think that’s a great suggestion! I was a leashed kid and that’s probably a major reason why I’m still around,” one user wrote.

The OP replied, “I’ve seen far too many close calls with children who weren’t contained in some way. Saw one almost terrible incident last night when a kid booted away from the parents right when they left a pizza place and ran for the car , nearly gettin run over by a passing van who thankfully had their windows down and heard dad yell loudly at the kid to stop and stopped.”

“‘She's three.’ More of a reason you should be paying attention to your child and making sure they are not running up to dogs they don't know,” one X user wrote.

Though several X users sided with the dog owner, others weren’t so quick to agree.

“Or not? Kids sometimes do this. And not all parents are shitty. When drivers see kids and stop, parents are typically thankful & apologetic. Sorry that parent was a jerk to you about your dog, but plenty have an understanding of both childhood development & responsibility,” they wrote.

Another mom weighed in, noting that she has had talks with her preschooler about the dangers of running up to dogs, but sometimes, little kid brain with no impulse control takes over.

“I do this too, but my 4-year-old is only just NOW starting to get it. With kids ages 1-4 they can perfectly understand the rule and repeat it back, but still lack the impulse control to not do the thing,” they wrote.

“We don’t know how hard the mom did or didn’t try to stop the kid tho? Sometimes kids get away from ya for a sec. Happens often to me as I have two little ones and I’m very pregnant and slow rn”

“My 3yo has known not to run up to strange dogs and ask to pet them since he was literally 17 months old. (Still working on remembering not to put his face in dogs faces after he gets the go ahead, though),” another replied.

The OP responded, “Learning comes in steps for sure.”

Another X user called out the OPs assumptions that the parent noting the age of the child was somehow an excuse for the behavior, rather than giving them the benefit of the doubt.

“I think it's funny that you interpreted ‘She's 3’ to mean ‘I haven't taught her how to behave around dogs’ rather than ‘I am actively trying to teach her how to behave around dogs but because she's 3 she still gets it wrong sometimes,’” they wrote.

Another user found the tweet offensive and an “excuse” to once again, mom shame.

“I guarantee you the parent didn't just say ‘She's three’ and walk away, but who knows. I think this was just an opportunity to dunk on a parent & make a joke that compares kids to dogs. I had an aggressive dog & bc kids are impulsive by nature, I didn't take him around kids,” the user shared.

One X user had some suggestions for how the OP could approach the situation if this were to happen again.

“A lot of people genuinely don’t know to do this with dogs so I take the chance to yes body block but then go ‘We should ask first, she might not be nice. Do you want me to show you how to let a dog say hello?’ and I hope it slows the kid down in their next interaction,” they wrote.

However, the OP was not having this kind of compromise.

“And that’s great. But Zoë is a service animal. It’s not my job to teach problematic kids. There were plenty of other dogs at this location who the parents could put at risk,” they replied.

Though accusations of Schmidt being “anti-child” went flying, she told NBC News that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

“I enjoy hanging out with kids and teaching them when appropriate,” she said, “but if a child is way out of line and puts any of my animals at risk, my priority is to my animals’ safety first and foremost.”

And she’s right.

For the safety of children and dogs, there need to be clear guidelines and rules for how the two species should interact. Even the sweetest of dogs can be sent to their breaking point, and most young kids cannot read the signs that a dog has had enough. Hell, most adults can’t even do that.

Children of all ages should never pet dogs they’re unfamiliar with.

The American Veterinary Medical Association notes on its website that "children are the most common victims of dog bites and are far more likely to be severely injured."

“Don’t ever pet a dog without asking first,” the guidelines for dog bite prevention state. “Both adults and children should always ask the owner for permission to pet their dog, even if it’s a dog you know, or that has seemed friendly toward you before.”

Our Companions recommends the Pat, Pet, Pause system for kids wanting to approach dogs.

First pat their own leg, pet the dog on the body for three seconds, then stop and pause. If the dog doesn’t walk away, the child can continue to pet it.

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