By Karen A. Soukiasian
Prevent dog bites by teaching kids simple safety rules.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs in the U.S. Children are the most common victims and more than 400,000 of them require medical attention for bites.
That’s why you need to teach children how to safely approach a strange dog, and what to do should the dog respond negatively.
Kids love riddles and rhymes. The ASPCA has a simple, easy to learn one you can teach them; should they be in a precarious situation. It is easy and fun to remember and practice because it is so visual.
“Stand like a tree! Lie like a log.”
You also can show your child this fun video from Good Dog in a Box that will help keep them safe and prevent dog bites.
Being dog savvy, you know dogs are predators. They like to hunt and chase things down to the ground. You are also aware children should never be left unsupervised around dogs. However, things don’t always go the way they should. To be on the safe side; explain to them never run! Dogs are less likely to attack something that is not moving…like a tree or log, than something that is moving.
Demonstrate and explain why, when they “Stand like a tree.” they must stand up straight, and tall, arms tucked under their armpits. This makes them look bigger, and it prevents dangling hands from being a moving target. If possible, they should scream for help. Make it very clear, they are not to move, until the dog is no longer interested and leaves, and until help arrives. Many dogs will be scared off by the scream. But to be on the safe side, they should wait until an adult comes to help them.
The second part of the rule is to “Lie like a log.” Show them how to lie face down, arms tucked, protecting their face. Again, they are not to move, until the dog is gone and help arrives.
Practice this as a game, so the child will automatically respond correctly so they can prevent dog bites.
Teach your child how to properly approach a strange dog and explain why. The rules are:
· Never approach a strange dog when the owner is not present. Explain all dogs are not friendly. They must always stay away from dogs, unless the owner tells them it’s OK.
· If the owner is present, ask, “May I pet your dog?” Explain they need to get the owner’s permission, before approaching the dog.
· If the owner says, “Yes”, the child must then curl their fingers into a fist, and slowly present the back of their hand for the dog to sniff. Explain dogs need to sniff first; it’s a dog’s way of exchanging names!
· Some dogs may want to sniff other parts of their body. Explain that is how dogs greet each other. That’s when they must “Stand like a tree.” and allow the dog to sniff them.
· If the dog’s owner says it is OK to pet the dog, teach your child to pet under the chin. They are not to reach over the dog’s head to pet them. Explain some dogs see this as an aggressive move and think they may be getting hit.
Here are some other rules children should learn to prevent dog bites. They’re also just good dog safety know-how, including:
· Never stare a strange dog in the eyes. Explain how that is how dogs challenge each other into a fight.
· Never enter someone’s house or yard where there is a dog, without the owner present, and without first receiving permission to enter. Explain how many dogs are possessive and protective of their home and yard.
· Never approach a dog from behind. Explain how the dog may get startled and bite to protect itself.
· Never disturb a dog when it is sleeping. Explain a sleeping dog is vulnerable, and may bite to protect itself.
· Never disturb a dog when it is eating. Explain some dogs are protective and possessive of their food. They may think their food is being taken away.
· Never pick up a puppy when the mother is around. Explain mother dogs sometimes feel they have to protect their children, just like you sometimes feel you have to protect them from harm.
· Never approach an injured or sick dog. Explain the dog may bite, because it is in pain, or is feeling ill and needs to protect itself, or just wants to be left alone.
· Never approach a car with a dog in it. Explain many dogs see their car as their property, and are protecting it.
· Never tease, wrestle, or play tug-of-war with a dog. Explain you never want to challenge a dog. A dog must believe people are the leaders. Leaders don’t challenge because they know they are smarter and stronger…they don’t have to prove it.
· Never take a toy, food or treat away from a dog. Explain you never want to take something away from a dog, that they are protecting.
· Respect the dog’s space, if it goes into its crate. Explain even dogs sometimes want to be left alone, and that we have to respect that.
Bottom line: By making dog safety game-like and fun, most children learn the rules quickly and easily. The best part is, once they learn them, they will carry them for the rest of their lives and by knowing the rules, they are best prepared to prevent dog bites.
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