Dogs are a special part of family life and provide love and companionship to many of the children who attend our school. That said; there are some children who react with trepidation or uncertainty when confronted with pooches meandering across their path at the school gate or on the street.
An equally important observation is the children who, perhaps owning a dog as a pet, approach other dogs with over-confidence…not thinking that said animal might have a different temperament or behaviour-norm to the type of dog with which they are familiar.
With these two points in mind, we organised a lesson on how to be safe around dogs; led by one of our St Andrew’s mums and her lovely dog Badger, and based on the dog safety tips offered by Dogs Trust UK. It was great fun and the children seemed to take the simple steps taught as part of the activity to heart – we even heard a few of them ‘educating’ their parents at home time!
The most common mistake people make when it comes to our four legged friends, is forgetting that a dog is a living creature that thinks, feels and gets frightened just like us, and will act accordingly. Therefore, the number one rule for any parent is: never leave your child alone with a dog – any dog. From the smallest to the largest, even the most friendly, cute and cuddly dogs might bite if provoked. Like humans, dogs have a level of tolerance, which we MUST respect. Our job, as mums and dads, is to be aware.
Children, on the other hand, should learn how to approach a dog and inversely, what to do if they, in turn, are approached by a dog.
One of the lessons we hope to have imparted in our ‘dog safety’ activity is: to always ask the owner of a dog permission before touching his/her pet, and to find out where the dog likes to be stroked before touching it. For the child who is nervous around dogs when approached, the best thing to do is to stand still, in a confident, upright position and look away from the dog. Running or shrieking might be the knee-jerk reaction for a scared child but this is not an ideal way to deal with an inquisitive or unruly dog.
We live in a compact city that is home to many dogs and we have to respect one another’s space – animal and human alike. Teaching children how to behave around dogs is important, but you can’t count on the child (or the dog) to remember the rules of safe behaviour.
For more expert tips on how children (and families) can be safe around dogs, follow the LINK to this downloadable manual put together by Dogs Trust UK.