It’s Dog Bite Prevention Week, so in honor of this, I’m going to talk about teaching your children the proper way to approach a dog. Did you know most dog bites occur between a child and a dog that know each other? Teaching your child to understand basic behavior will also help prevent dog bites.
One of the most important things in avoiding dog bites is to teach your child to not squeal around the dog. Dogs hear that sounds and they equate it with the same sound that prey makes, which can make them act on instinct and bite your child.
Teach children to be calm and to curtail squeals of joy when around a dog. Running, squealing and roughhousing children can also encourage a dog to jump and chew on a child’s arms, legs and clothing – this is how dogs play with each other. However, dogs must be taught this is not how to play with humans. By teaching your dog not to bite human skin, you can help avoid this problem also.
It is important to teach your child that when he or she moves away from a dog, that the he or she walks, not runs. A running child equals prey and triggers the chase response, which is virtually impossible to interrupt. This same response is brought on my cars, squirrels, cats, you name it. When the chase response kicks in the dog is acting purely on instinct and not rational thought, so this response is nearly impossible to stop once it starts.
NOTE: Never, EVER leave your child and your dog unattended when they are together.
Approaching an Unknown Dog
Even if you don’t have a dog, you should still teach your children how to properly approach one. Animals bring out a curiosity in every child and just running up to some strange dog on the street is bound to cause a problem sooner or later.
This is how all unfamiliar (and familiar for that matter) dogs should be approached:
- Always ask the owner if it is ok to approach the dog.
- Once the all clear is given, approach the dog slowly, with arms at your sides. Running up to the dog can startle it and lead to the child being bitten.
- Once close to the dog, let it sniff you. Slowly lift your arms to allow the dog to sniff your hands.
- Present a closed fist to the dog for more sniffing – this protects the fingers in case the dog gets spooked and tries to nip the child.
- Next, gently touch the side and then the top of the dog’s head. Never put a hand directly on top of the dog’s head.
- Once the pet is ok with being touched, slowly and gently pet it.
Never let the child bend down to hug the dog, not all dogs like this and again, it can lead to the child being bitten.
You also need to teach your children what a dog who should not be approached looks like. Dogs with their tails up, ears back, fur standing up, and are barking, growling or showing teeth, are all signs the dog is to not be approached. Tell children that if they come across a dog exhibiting these behaviors, to not approach it, but to also not run away, scream or stare at it. Teach the child to walk away, slowly.