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Cesar Millan Reveals No. 1 Reason Dogs Bite Children

If you are anything like me, when my son and I encounter a too-cute pooch on the street, we stop hoping to pet him. Like so many parents, I instruct my 6-year-old to ask the owner if he can pet the dog before he makes the approach. That move could land you in the ER with a dog bite, warned former "The Dog Whisperer" star Cesar Millan when Mom.me sat down with him for a recent interview. While it’s polite to ask the owner’s permission, that is not the opinion that matters most in this situation.

What we often discount is what the dog wants. Try to envision it from the pet's perspective. There he is, happily bounding down the sidewalk, when he is brought to an abrupt stop, and an overly excited or perhaps anxious child looms into his personal space. It’s a recipe for potential disaster. “If the dog is a little unsure, he doesn’t want to be petted,” said Millan, current host of Nat Geo Wild's "Cesar 911." “Then the kid starts moving forward, the dog snaps and the parents blame the dog, saying, ‘Oh your dog is aggressive.' But we are teaching our children the wrong way to relate to mother nature.”

Instead, parents should all follow a simple rule when they encounter a dog: No touch, no talk, no eye contact. “For children, this is the best thing you can do, especially if the dog is a stranger,” he explains. “Let the dog come to you, smell you, pick up on your calm energy and he will come to you.” That is the philosophy at play when he works with even the most troubled animals. It gives the dog time to trust you and want to get to know you. “Don’t just touch a dog because you want to pet him,” Millan adds. “That is what you want—what about what he wants? The dog isn’t thinking, ‘This is a three-year-old.’ He sees a kid that is coming on too strong, too excited. Can you imagine that intensity? We have to teach society to be respectful if we want respect from dogs.”

“We are teaching our children the wrong way to relate to mother nature.”

Another typical mistake of pet owners is choosing a dog because of the way he looks rather than how he behaves. “It’s not about the breed—it’s the energy,” advises Millan. “Before you take one home, ask, 'Can this dog coexist in my family and the environment I live in?'” Bottom line is, just because you once had a calm Shih Tzu doesn’t mean they will all be that way. And if you find yourself with an unusually aggressive or angry pet, take a good look in the mirror. Every dog will feed off its owner’s emotions. “In the dog world, who you are is energy,” says Millan. “Humans love drama, dogs absolutely do not love drama. They want harmony and balance." And it’s our job to give it to them.

Mom.me editor Ericka Souter interviews Cesar Millan for the AOL "Build" series.

Have you ever had an out-of-control dog?

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