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Dog bites are a serious public health problem. Half of all children will be bitten by a dog by the time they are twelve and the majority of these bites will be by the family dog or another dog known to the child. A dog bite can be traumatic for everyone: the person bitten, the victim’s family, the family of the dog, and the dog as well.
Most dogs give a warning before biting. Unfortunately, since dogs use a different language than we do, humans do not always recognize those warning signs. Once we learn to “read dog” many dog bites can be easily prevented. We believe that a basic understanding of dog bite prevention and dog body language is essential knowledge for ALL dog owners and children as well as parents, or anyone else responsible for supervising dogs and children when they are together.
Even you don’t have the time to review all of the material here right now, please consider the following:
The 3 Most Important Things to Teach Your Kids*
- Dogs Don’t like Hugs and Kisses – Teach your kids, and adults, not to hug or kiss a dog on the face. Hugging the family dog and face-to-face contact are common causes of bites to the face. Instead, teach people to scratch the dog on the chest or the side of the neck.
- Be a Tree if a Strange Dog Approaches – Teach kids to stand still, like a tree. Trees are boring and the dog will eventually go away. This works for strange dogs and anytime the family dog gets too frisky or becomes aggressive. Green Acres Kennel Shop offers the Doggone Safe “Be A Tree” at their facility and at schools and other locations.
- Never Tease a Dog – and never disturb a dog that’s sleeping, eating, tied up or behind a fence or that is protecting something.
The 4 Most Important Things Parents Can Do*
- Supervise, ALWAYS – Don’t assume your dog is good with kids. If a toddler must interact with your dog, you should have your hands on the dog too. Even if your dog is great with kids and has never bitten – why take a chance?
- Make sure everyone who supervises your children understands basic dog bite prevention–In most families, a child’s parents are not the only caregivers. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, and babysitters also often take care of the children and the dogs. They need to know how to supervise the children and dogs just as much as you.
- Train the dog with reward-based methods – Take your dog to obedience classes where positive-reinforcement is used. Never pin, shake, choke, hold the dog down or roll the dog over to teach it a lesson. Dogs treated this way are much more likely to display aggression. Involve older children, with supervision, in the training of the family dog. Don’t allow children to punish the dog. Condition the dog to enjoy the presence and actions of children using positive experiences.
- Help your child to learn about dogs and how to prevent bites– Bring your child to one of the FREE “Be A Tree” seminars being offered at Green Acres Kennel Shop or talk to your child’s school about having the program brought to your child’s classroom.
The 3 Most Important Things Expectant Parents Can Do*
- If you already have a dog, start planning for the arrival of the baby in the first trimester–Your life will change greatly when you bring a baby home and as result so will your dog’s life.
- Teach your dog basic manners– If your dog has never attended a dog training class, now is the time to do so. If they have attended a class, start brushing up on important behaviors like SIT, DOWN and LEAVE IT.
- Be proactive about concerns with your dog’s temperament–If you have any concerns about how your dog will behave around a baby, meet with a certified dog behavior consultant as soon as possible.
The 4 Most Important Things Dog Owners Can Do*
- Prepare Your Dog for the World – Give your puppy lots of new positive experiences during the critical socialization period between 8 and 16 weeks of age. Enroll your new puppy or adult dog in a dog training class that will teach you how to train your dog basic manners like; sit, walking nicely on leash, leave it and coming when called.
- Learn Basic Canine Body Language–Dogs communicate with their bodies and most do an excellent job of telling us when they are anxious, upset or angry; however, most people do not understand these signals from the dog. You can learn basic dog body language in our handout on the subject (Introduction to Canine Communication).
- Supervise and Advocate for Your Dog– Supervise your dog at all times around children. Do not allow children to hug and kiss the dog. If visiting children are bothering your dog, put the dog away.
- Spay or Neuter Your Dog – Neutered pets are calmer, healthier and less likely to be aggressive. Neutering prevents unwanted dogs that may end up in shelters or in less than ideal conditions where they may grow up to be poorly socialized or aggressive.
*Adapted from materials developed by our friends at www.doggonesafe.com