Q: I have a tiny dog who goes everywhere with me. People always want to pick him up and hold him. He likes attention, but I'm always worried that he might bite if he is startled or handled roughly. Any tips on how I should respond when people ask to hold him?
A: It's OK to let people admire and pet your dog, and you can take the opportunity to let them know the best ways to handle dogs. This is an especially good lesson for kids; they'll soak it up and share it with their friends. Here are some tips to help make sure everyone stays safe:
* Give him space. Ask people not to get in your dog's face. Explain that dogs are uncomfortable when their space is invaded that way. When people want to kiss or hug your dog, have them scratch him on the chest, behind the ears or beneath the chin instead.
* Pick-up lines. Most dogs aren't crazy about being picked up and held by strangers. They'll squirm to get free or look away from the person in the vain hope that she'll disappear. Suggest that the person pet the dog while you hold him. If a young child wants to hold the dog, have the child sit on the ground or on a sofa with the dog next to him. That way you don't have to worry that he'll drop your dog or hold him incorrectly.
* Treat tip. When people want to give your dog a treat, first make sure it's something you approve, and then ask them to offer it with their palm up and flat. Your dog is less likely to nip any fingers that way.