By Arden Moore
Pro Pet Hero Instructor Director and Master Pet First Aid/CPR Instructor
During the holidays and as we enter 2022, many families will be adopting puppies, shelter dogs and purebreds from reputable dog breeders.
To ensure everyone in your family, including your children and the new canine, get off on the right paw, let me share ways to prevent dog bites.
About five million dog bites occur each year in the United States with about 51 percent of dog bite victims are children. Kids between the ages of 5 and 9 are at the greatest risk, based on statistics from the American Veterinary Medical Association. And, here is perhaps the most surprising statistic: nearly 80 percent of dog bites happen to children at home.
Young children may know the alphabet forward and backward. But do they know the doggy ABCs? Dog-loving kids naturally want to say hello to any dog they see, but they need to keep safe and make sure the dog wants to be greeted.
In my pet first aid and my pet behavior classes, I teach children the doggy ABCs. Please share:
A: Ask permission. Never pet a dog you don’t know unless the owner says it is okay to do so.
B: Be sniffed. Dogs use their strong sense of smell to determine if the person they are meeting is a friend or foe. Instead of immediately trying to pat the dog, make a fist and extend your hand for the dog to step forward to sniff.
C: Carefully stroke the dog’s back. Not all dogs like being patted on the head. It can feel threatening if they don’t know you. Build up a dog’s trust in you by gently gliding your hand down his back.
Some dogs do not want you to pet them. They may be afraid of strangers or just not interested in making friends. Keep on walking if a dog you meet shows these back-off signals:
* Hides behind his owner when you approach.
* Tenses his body.
* Raises his lip and shows his teeth.
* Lunges or growls.
Be a Tree
If a strange dog off-leash approaches do not scream or run away. These actions will only cause some dogs to chase and possibly attack you. That’s because dogs are predators, and they like to chase and capture prey that moves. So, don’t be prey! Stay still and be quiet.
Here’s some good advice from my friends at Doggone Safe: be a tree. Why act like a tree? A tree is boring because it just stands there. Dogs don’t chase trees. They chase things that move, like squirrels.
So, even if you are scared when a strange dog approaches you, do your best to “be a tree” by following these safety steps:
1. Stop and stay tall in place.
2. Slowly fold your arms against your body.
3. Keep your head down and don’t look directly at the dog.
Other vital safety tips: never rush up to greet a dog, even your own. Avoid being face-to-face as some dogs find this threatening. Finally, do no scream or shout as dogs have sensitive ears and far superior hearing than we do.
Play It Safe
One of my pet heroes is Lesley Zoromski, a former elementary school teacher and professional dog trainer who created Kids-n-K9s, a nonprofit group that focuses on dog bite prevention training.
I invite you and your family to check out this website that includes her Stop, Look & Paws activity board game aimed at helping kids better understand some basic canine body language cues to reduce the risk of dog bites. The site also features dozens of great blog posts for the whole family to read and enjoy.
Learn Pet First Aid
Learn more on ways to keep your cats and dogs safe by visiting http://www.propethero.com. Consider taking our veterinarian-approved online pet first aid/CPR course. Enter this code: CPR – ARDEN MOORE and receive a 10 percent discount! And, if you are interested in becoming a Pro Pet Hero instructor, please click on the BECOME AN INSTRUCTOR button on the home page for more details.