By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views
When I was a kid, I used to go up to every dog I would meet and put my hand out. I know that isn’t wise, but I was a kid and I was lucky. Today, I’ve taught my child to ask first if it is okay to pet a dog. Not all dogs want the attention.
According to Joan Orr, M.Sc., of the non-profit Doggone Safe, dog bites can leave children frightened of dogs for life. Dogs who bite “may lose their home, family or life,” says Joan. “Experts agree that dog bites are preventable through education.”
Doggone Safe provides education to help children learn to act safely around dogs. The non-profit plans to educate 50,000 children during Dog Bite Prevention Week, which is May 15-21.
What Kids and Dog Owners Need to Know
Happy dogs are much less likely to bite than anxious dogs. Parents need to teach children to recognize the difference and to interact only with happy dogs.
A happy dog wags his tail loosely and pants. He shows interest in interacting with children. An anxious dog may lick his lips, yawn, turn his head away or show a half moon of white in his eye. By learning to read dog body language and understanding that dogs have feelings, children will develop empathy for dogs.
Children must know what to do if they meet a strange dog. “We need to empower them with the knowledge they need to keep themselves safe,” says Joan. “Doggone Safe teaches children to stand still—like a tree, fold your branches (hands folded in front), watch your roots grow (look at your feet) and count in your head over and over to the biggest number you know until help comes or the dog goes away.”
For more information about Doggone Safe and Dog Bite Prevention Week, click here.