It seems every week we are hearing of adults and especially children who are bitten by dogs. Many of us are dog owners and our dogs are a loving part of our family, so it is especially hard when we hear of these tragedies.
What we need are some rules or guidelines for our children that will help to keep them safe when they are around dogs. We also need to protect our dogs as well, because whilst the thought of a child being bitten is horrible, having to face the potential of putting a dog down because it has inadvertently bitten a child is equally horrible.
So how do we prevent both tragedies from happening? How can we help our children to be more aware and to keep themselves as safe as possible around dogs? Well here are 3 tips that will hopefully give your children the understanding and knowledge to keep themselves safe, whether they come across a dog outside the home or even in the presence of the family dog.
1. Never approach an unknown dog
This is a difficult rule to enforce, because lots of children love dogs and will quickly approach any dog they see, just to give it a pat or a cuddle. As we all know, the problem is that not all dogs are friendly, some are nervous around children or become agitated with sudden movements or are just plain aggressive.
A child running towards a dog can make the dog become protective of itself and believe it is being attacked and sometimes dogs that seem to be the friendliest, can snap when they feel threatened.
So advise your children to never approach a dog, ever. Always wait until the dog approaches them first. If a dog is wandering the streets alone, it is best for them to avoid the dog entirely and if it is on a leash being walked by its owner, to always ask before approaching and patting the dog.
2. Remain calm around dogs
Running towards a dog or even away from a strange dog can excite the dog and cause it to either attack or to chase them. So tell your children that when faced with a dog, to always remain calm and stand still. Don’t shout at the dog or make loud noises, as startled dogs can react or at the very least can become anxious and alert for any perceived threats.
If a dog does attack, tell your children to crouch down and form a ball, protecting their head and neck area. They should remain calm and in a protective stance until the dog leaves or an adult comes along and takes control of the dog. It is very unlikely that an adult will not be close by and come to your child’s aid.
3. Avoid eye contact
Looking a dog directly in the eye is seen as a challenging behaviour and can make a dog anxious or feel threatened. So advise your child to not engage with any unknown dogs and to simply ignore it. This will put them in the position of a pack leader, as only submissive dogs approach another dog; pack leaders do not approach, but wait for other dogs to come to them.
So by avoiding eye contact, your child is not threatening the dog, causing it to become anxious or aggressive. If the dog approaches your child, sniffs them and touches them, then it is probably safe for them to also touch the dog.
In these circumstances, you may still want to advise your children to ignore the dog, however if they do interact with the dog now, it is always best to avoid patting their head (as this is seen as a threatening behaviour by the dog) and instead to scratch their chest.
Hopefully with these simple tips your child will always be safe around dogs, whether inside or outside your home.
For information on our dog walking services in the Northern Beaches area of Sydney, call Tracey on 0413 097 821 or complete our online enquiry form.