Who Here Likes Dogs?
WE DO! WE DO! The voices are heard and the hands shoot up!
This is the opening of the Dog Bite Prevention Programs presented by Dogs On Call. The program is adjusted according to the age of the audience, but key topics covered include recognizing dog body language; staying away from dogs behind fences, tied out, or in cars; what to do if a strange dog approaches by Being A Tree and Being a Rock; the difference between a service dog and a therapy dog; always asking permission before petting; and perhaps the most important — interacting properly with dogs you know.
We ask, “Raise your hand. Who here has been bitten by a dog?” An alarming number of hands go up. Then, “Who here has been bitten by a dog you know?” and almost all of the same hands go up again! The sad fact is that most of the children are injured by a familiar dog — Grandma’s dog, a neighbor’s dog, and even their own dog. And almost all bites can be prevented if children are taught to behave properly with all dogs and especially familiar dogs.
Children know to stay away from a strange dog that is barking, growling, and showing its teeth; those are obvious signs to recognize. But what about dogs you know? Children need to be aware of warning signs in all dogs, and stay away when seeing these signs, even if it is your own dog! Dogs can’t talk, so they need to use their bodies and sounds to tell us how they are feeling. Signs such as ears down, staring, tail tucking, backing away, and avoidance all tell us to stay away! Pay attention to that growl; that growl is usually followed by the bite!
We tell the children, “Just because your dog lets you do something, it does not mean they like it.” A perfect example is the hug; dogs don’t like to be hugged. And how many pictures do we see of children hugging a dog! Or sitting on the family dog! Or using the dog for a stool! And maybe we should not let our dog do something as a puppy that it will be scolded for when an adult, such as jumping up, mouthing, licking, pulling on our clothing, etc.
Most dogs are nice, but all dogs can bite. Each year over 400,000 children are bitten badly enough to require medical attention, but most of these bites can be prevented. We remind children that very often when a dog bites a child that the dog must go away, and can never come back home again. More often than not, the bite was the result of the child not knowing how to act properly around the dog and not recognizing the dog’s signs that it is not liking what is happening.
Dogs On Call Inc. would love to present our program to any group of children and/or parents. In 2014, we presented our program to over 500 kids at events including Madison Fire Department’s Safety Town, the Dane County Humane Society’s Camp Paw Print, numerous schools and groups.
Contact us at [email protected] if you are interested in a program.
May 17th – 23rd is National Dog Bite Prevention Week.