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What every child should know when encountering a strange dog

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Most children are fascinated by dogs. In fact, the word “dog” is one of the first words learned by many children. Making sure that your child has an enjoyable experience with canines, however, takes a bit of knowledge and a lot of supervision.

According to the Coalition for Living Safely with Dogs (a Colorado animal health and welfare organization), children 14 and under were bitten disproportionately to their population, with 9- and 10-year-old boys being the most common victims. Children were bitten twice as often as would be expected given their proportion of the population. Typically, bites occur with a child’s own family pet or a dog that the child has met in the past.

Understanding dog body language and respecting it is key. Dogs rely on slight changes in body language when interacting with other dogs and humans. Unfortunately, we aren’t as perceptive when it comes to animal body language—a dog’s ears, eyes and fur.

These signs indicate a dog is stressed and needs to be left alone:
• Lip licking
• Wide eyes (whites of the eyes showing)
• Tense body and or face
• Tail tucked or a rigid wag
• Slinking away or crouching to seem smaller

These signs indicate a dog is feeling defensive and putting on his or her best offense:
• Leaning forward
• Ears forward
• Direct stare
• Fur along back or at shoulders standing on end

Keep in mind that a stressed or fearful dog may not show all of these signs at once. Also, certain breeds are limited in the way they can convey their feelings due to breed traits and/or modifications. For instance, long ears on a beagle or the docked tail of a cocker spaniel make it important to look for other signs of stress.

Teaching your child about dog body language is important for both the child and the pet to create a happy and healthy interaction.

Event
Don’t miss the Furry Scurry, a two-mile walk for animals in Washington Park at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 5, benefiting the Dumb Friends League. This fundraiser helps care for as many as 24,000 homeless pets every year and provides valuable services to our community.

Guest blogger Nicole Schimming is manager of humane education at the Dumb Friends League, the largest animal welfare organization in the Rocky Mountain region. The League’s Humane Education department delivers lessons and programs about kindness, compassion and respect toward all living things. Schimming has a master’s degree in education curriculum and development, and was an elementary school teacher prior to joining the League in 2006.

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Comments
  • comment avatar Amber Johnson April 17, 2012

    If anything good has come out of Kyle Dyer’s accident, it is that people are more aware and cautious around unknown dogs. I know I’ve scaled back on letting my kids approach them without first getting the owner’s consent. Great tips!

  • comment avatar Anna April 17, 2012

    I don’t let my kids around anyone’s dogs. Too risky for my taste. I worked in personal injury for years and seeing cases of dogs bites on children, and the amount of medical care they need as a result for years, made me very cautious years ago.

  • comment avatar Wanda April 17, 2012

    Yes, Buddy was bitten by a neighbor’s workmen’s dog!

  • comment avatar Denver Dream Dog April 20, 2012

    This is a GREAT ARTICLE! Kids really need this info. We teach our kids how to cross the street safely, how to swim to protect themselves from drowning, how to avoid strangers…but we never teach them how to interact safely with an animal that most kids either live with, or encounter on a daily basis! As a Doggone Safe presenter, I travel to area schools to do free, fun-filled presentations for kids that lets them practice recognizing doggy body language, how to interact with dogs safely, and how to protect themselves from dog bites! If anyone wants to schedule one for their child’s class, you can reach me on my website.

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