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Home > Pet News and Articles > Techniques to Help Keep Dogs Bite Free

Techniques to Help Keep Dogs Bite Free
Article By: Glenn Redmond

Last year, Cheryl Ellis from the SPCA and I visited various elementary schools around the Avalon in an effort to teach children how to behave safely around dogs. The "Bite Free Program" was presented to more than one thousand children and was extremely well received by both students and faculty. The teachers often expressed to us that they learned just as much as the students.

Last week, I was enjoying the beautiful fall weather sharing a walk with my dog Dakota, two friends and their golden retrievers. We stopped at a small pond to throw some sticks for the dogs, who enthusiastically plunged into the cold water as if in the middle of a heat wave. We were avoiding the inevitable shaking of water from fur, when a small boy accompanied by his parents, took interest in our dripping canines. All three dogs are friendly and happy to be around children, so we were more than willing to indulge the child's curiosity. The little boy immediately grabbed for one of the dogs tails, which received quick intervention from both myself and the boy's father.

What happened next proved to be the inspiration for this column. The father instructed his young son to touch the dogs on the top of the head, which is one of the most threatening gestures you can perform when meeting a dog for the first time. Being well aware of how advice from strangers is often received, I struggled with the decision to remain silent or show the correct way. Silence - not being my forte -lost out, but I could tell the boy's father would have preferred a smile and some complimentary comment about the weather. Social etiquette aside, learning how to act around dogs will keep children safe and dogs from being put down. However, before the education process begins, parents need to know the correct information to pass on to their kids.

How to Approach a Dog Safely

Teach children never to approach a dog that is without its owner. When they do meet a dog and owner, the first rule to follow is always to ask permission to pet the dog. This gives an owner the opportunity to decline if, for whatever reason, the dog would prefer to be left alone.

Secondly, let the dog sniff their hand. Dogs interpret a lot of their world through scent, so allow them to get to know your child with a quick sniff. Finally, ensure that kids pet the dog under its chin. Dogs feel threatened with hands coming over their heads or reaching for their tails or backs.

If A Strange Dog Approaches

A child's instinct (and most adults for that matter) is to run if a strange dog suddenly comes toward them. However, running will only elicit more interest from the dog and incite the dog's desire to chase.

As hard as it sounds, the best thing children can do is stay quiet and stand still like a tree with arms glued to their sides, avoiding any eye contact with the dog. Most dogs will lose interest with a still figure and move on to more exciting ventures.

Children riding bicycles often feel they can outrun a dog. They can't. Some dogs can run as fast as a race horse. The safest action is to dismount the bike and stand still like a tree. If a child falls or is pushed to the ground, teach them to lie like a log. That is, to lie on their stomachs with their legs outstretched, facing the ground with their hands covering their neck. This is the best position to minimize any injury, protecting the most vital of areas, the face and neck.

Other points of interest that warrant discussion with children include:

    1. Do not bother a dog that is sleeping or eating.
    2. Never try to interact with a mother who is protecting her puppies.
    3. Never try to take a toy or bone out of a dog's mouth.
    4. Do not run or yell around dogs. Teach children to be calm around our canine citizens.
    5. Do not attempt to pet a dog through an open car window, or a dog that is behind a fence. Dogs protect their property and may view children's friendly gestures as a threat.
    6. Always be kind and gentle and never tease or hurt a dog in any way.
    7. Never approach a tethered dog.

You can have a lot of fun teaching these rules of etiquette to children. Pretend to be a dog and have them practice the proper way to approach and pet. In the "Bite Free Program" Cheryl and I pretended to be roaming dogs appearing from nowhere as all the kids stood like trees or lay like logs. Through the giggles, it was clear that the children were getting the message.

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