Preventing dog bites
Each year, more children are bitten by dogs than are injured from horseback riding, roller-blading and skateboarding combined. The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that children make up more than 60% of all dog bite victims.
Bites can be prevented if children are taught how to behave around animals, say the professional trainers at Best Friends Pet Resorts, and if dog owners take the time to properly train and socialize their pets.
Keeping kids safe
Surprisingly, children with family dogs can be at the greatest risk around strange animals. "Kids need to understand that not every dog is like their dog at home. The Golden Retriever on the street may not have the same easy going temperament as your Golden at home. Strange dogs should be approached with caution," says Joyce Clemens, dog trainer at Best Friends East Cobb, GA resort.
Trainers say it is very important that children be taught how to interpret a dog’s behaviors, such as the difference between a play bow or an aggressive stance, so that they can distinguish when a dog is a possible threat.
In addition, Best Friends trainers recommend teaching children the following dog-safe behaviors:
- Never pet a dog you don’t know without asking the owner. If the dog’s owner gives permission to pet him, close your hand into a fist and let the dog sniff the back of your hand. Next, pet the dog gently under the chin, or on his chest.
- Don’t run to, or past, a dog. Dogs love to chase and catch things, and may become excited and lunge. If you don’t know the dog, walk slowly and quietly away with your hands in your pockets or at your side.
- If a strange dog approaches to sniff you, stay still. Try to relax. In most cases, the dog will go away once it determines you are not a threat. Never corner a dog.
- Never stare into the eyes of a dog you don’t know. Dogs think sustained eye contact is a sign of assertive or aggressive behavior.
- Don’t disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
- Never approach a dog from the rear and grab him or place your arms around his neck. He may perceive this as an act of dominance, or you may startle him into a defensive response.
- If a dog knocks you to the ground, roll into a ball and remain still. Don’t scream. Cover your head and ears with your arms and legs.
Basic training for dogs
Dog owners also have a responsibility when it comes to preventing dog bites, that begins with always following leash laws.
Every owner should train his or her dog to obey the basic commands of ‘sit,’ ‘stay,’ ‘no’ and ‘come.’ Basic obedience and early socialization are very important, professional trainers agree. Make sure your puppy feels at ease around children by exposing him a little at a time under controlled circumstances.
Start at a distance, watching children at the playground, for example. Over time, move closer. As your dog becomes more comfortable encourage one or two children to come over to say ‘hello.’ Be careful not to put your dog in a position where it feels threatened or teased.
If you need help training your dog or teaching your child basic dog safety, consult a professional trainer for advice. Always look for a trainer who stands behind his or her program. At Best Friends Pet Care, dog training classes come with a Results Guarantee. If you successfully complete a class and your pet needs a review or a brush-up, you can repeat the class at no additional cost.
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Whether your dog, cat, or pocket pet is in our care for days or just an hour, we’ll form a genuine bond. We’ll get to know them for who they are and love them for it (no matter how strange they may be).