It's Dog Bite Prevention Week and statistics show that the majority of bites are from a known dog and the victim tends to be a child more often than not. Many dog bites are entirely preventable.
So that brings us into our first topic: Safety Tips for Kids!
#1 - Teach your children about canine body language. They need to know when a dog is friendly and relaxed, when he/she is exhibiting anxiety or is on the offensive. Some dogs are harder to read and it's the parent's responsibility to supervise children with any dogs. A great video on body language is Sarah Kalnajs' Language of Dogs.
#2 - When greeting a strange dog children should ask the owner if it's alright. If the owner gives consent the child should hold still and let the dog come to the child on his/her own. If a child runs right up to even a very friendly canine it can trigger an anxiety response or an excited arousal response. Both should be prevented. Letting the dog approaches allows the dog to make the decision and keeps the greeting "polite" in dog language. If the dog is hyper or excited then the child should not meet the dog.
#3 - Teach your kids how to pet a dog. Hugs are NEVER appropriate even with the family dog. Most dogs hate hugs and it puts your child's face right in bite range. Hugging is also considered to be a confrontational posture to most dogs.
#4 - If you and your kids frequent areas where dogs are allowed to run off leash then teach your child to play the "Be a Tree" game. Arms need to come right against the body and eye contact should avoided. Screaming needs to be avoided since it can heighten arousal significantly. Also discourage running when a strange dog is approaching as it can excite a chase response.
In an ideal world dogs would be highly socialized to children and have obedience skills such as "come", "off" and "leave it" but sadly not all owners spend the time teaching their dogs. Parents need to make sure they keep their children safe by teaching them how to be dogwise whether you have your own dog or not. Dogs are still animals and are not always predictable.
The best solution to dog bites is educating both Parents, Kids and Dogs. If everyone does their part then bites can be significantly reduced.
Where's Your Sit runs socialization and training classes for dogs of all temperments and backgrounds. We also offer a class for kids to take on bite prevention, reading canine body language and which dogs to pet. Dogs can be a valuable part of any child's life teaching empathy, compassion and giving them a friend who will always listen and keep their secrets. Let's keep everyone safe.