Monday, January 25, 2016

Teaching Children How To Be Safe Around Dogs

Check that it's sweet, before you meet!  This is sound advice for either a child or adult.  Always ask permission from the dog’s guardian before approaching any dog.   The guardian can let you know whether the animal is friendly and enjoys being petted, or prefers not to be touched.  When approaching the animal use caution, because you never know if, that day, the dog is not in the mood for a meet and greet.

To understand, they sniff your hand!  Dogs truly rule when it comes to their sense of smell.  According to the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES), a dog's sense of smell is approximately 1,000 times more sensitive than that of humans, and they use it to get to know those around them.  When initially meeting a dog, let him sniff the back of your hand.  This will keep your fingers out of the way and will not appear threatening to the dog. 

Chin or chest, that's the best!  Once the guardian has given permission, and the dog seems agreeable to being touched, gently stroke under his chin, on his chest or along its side for a few seconds. Pause and see what occurs. If the animal moves closer, nudges your hand, or interacts in a social way, he is letting you know that being touched is okay.  If he stiffens, moves away, or does not show any favorable body language, stop stroking.  Dogs, like us, do not like to be patted on the top of their heads.  Not only is it uncomfortable, but even a small hand approaching from above can feel threatening to a dog.

To meet a pup, ask a grown-up!  Always ask the adult guardian before picking up and nuzzling any puppy.  The puppy’s mother may be quite protective and might snap if a stranger approaches her puppies.  Even if the mother is not present, puppies can also bite and scratch like their more mature counterparts. 

If a dog has a snack, keep well back!  Approaching a dog while he is eating or chewing a bone might cause him to think you want to take his food or treasure away.  This may cause the dog to protect what it has by initially growling, then possibly snapping and biting.
Keep your face out of their space!  It is common sense to keep any face, whether child or adult, away from a dog’s mouth.  Even if the animal does not want to bite, he could nip accidently.

If you run and shout, it freaks us out!  Dogs react to the way we behave.  Screaming, shouting, or swinging arms wildly and running around are more likely to cause any dog to chase or attack.  Even more affected by rowdy children are shy or nervous dogs.  Being calm around such dogs can help them feel more secure.

A dog is not a toy, do not tease and annoy!  Never tease, hurt, or annoy a dog by its taking toys or by pretending to hit or kick him.  In addition, teach children not to yank on a dog’s tail, pull its fur, poke its eyes, or try to climb on its back and ride it.  Dogs cannot say in words that they want you to stop horrid behavior, but they can definitely growl and bite.

Quiet and slow is the way to go!  It is important that children be taught not to stare when confronted by an aggressive type dog and to move quietly and slowly away.  Direct eye contact is interpreted by dogs as aggression.  It is also imperative to tell them to “be a tree” and stand quietly, keeping their head down, with their hands low and clasped in front of them if a dog goes after them.  If they are knocked down, teach them to immediately cover their head and neck with their arms, and curl into a ball and “be like a rock”.

We know that children are the most common victims of dog bites.  Teaching children a few simple rules on how to be gentle, how to respect a dog’s space, and on what to do with unfamiliar dogs can go a long way in keeping children safer.


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