Are your kids dog savvy? Do they know what to do if they are approached by a stray or how to respond to a frightened or threatened dog? Children, especially those under the age of ten, are at high-risk for injury from dogs. Most of those injuries come from dogs that are familiar to the children. Taking the time to educate them about safety around dogs could help prevent dangerous encounters.
Reading a Dog's Body Language
Your kids probably know that when you get "that look" on your face, you mean business. They respond appropriately by changing their behavior to avoid unwanted consequences. Just like people, dogs also have non-vocal ways of communicating their feelings or mood. Teaching your children about a dog's body language will help ensure they avoid unwanted consequences from Fido as well. Here are some signs that a dog is aggressive and should be left alone:
* Raised and bristled tail
* Curled lip
* Stiff stance with body leaning slightly forward
* Raised hackles
Respecting a Dog's Space
Sometimes we just need to get away. We might go to our room and close the door, or take a walk around the block. Unfortunately, dogs don't have the same choices when they're tired of playing or have had enough interaction with the kids. When my dog has had enough, he retreats to his safe spot in the corner of our closet. That's our cue to leave him alone. Children need to respect a dog's need to get away, and should be taught that when the family dog chooses to walk away from the interaction, it means he has had enough.
Exercising Caution at Meal Time
Even dogs that are otherwise docile can sometimes display food aggression. The only time my pug has ever growled at me is when I once tried to take a treat away from her! Children should be taught to leave the dog alone while he's eating, and to never try to take away food or treats.
Avoiding Strays and Unfamiliar Dogs
I'm always amazed at the number of people - including adults - who just assume that because a dog is cute, he is also friendly. Kids need to learn that this is not always the case. Here are some tips on how children should treat encounters with stray and unfamiliar dogs:
* Don't just reach out and pet an unfamiliar dog, even if he is on a leash. Ask the dog's owner if it is OK to pet their dog. If they say it is, bend down to the dog's level and hold out your hand. Let the dog come to you.
* Never approach a stray dog. If you see a stray, you should alter your path to avoid it and find a safe place.
* Never run from a dog. If a stray approaches you and there is no safe place to get away, stand still and look down at the ground. Once the dog leaves, back away slowly.
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