One of the first things that I teach children in all of my classes is dog body language. I teach how an animal communicates because it is not only an important aspect to working with animals and learning about animals, but it is essential for safety. If a child doesn't know the signals that dogs are giving us, they can learn to fear animals because of a bad experience or even become seriously hurt. A dog that is aggressive will show you many signals before actually causing you harm. When a child knows these signs and signals, the child can respond appropriately, therefore staying safe.
No child should be scared of dogs or any other animal, however there are reasons to be careful. Luckily, it is easy to learn how to read and understand animals so that there is nothing to fear. Fear of dogs or other animals is often passed on from parents. I believe that it is the parents' job to ensure their child does not develop the same irrational fears. The benefits and joy that animals bring far out way the dangers.
The majority of dogs are friendly, loving creatures, but sometimes children can pester, annoy, and touch dogs inappropriately. Most dogs are able to take the pushing and the pulling of ears that children often do, but not every dog is familiar with children and has experienced a child's affection during play.
When I see children interact with animals I am often surprised at how little they know and at how they are unable to see what the animal is trying to tell them. The animal shows clear signs of fear or anger and joy or play. When dog shows a child that it is annoyed and wants to be left alone and the child continues the behaviour that the animal is agitated by, the child can be in danger.
Fearful dogs can quickly become aggressive dogs, and aggressive dogs will bite. Bite prevention involves knowing a dog's body language and knowing what to do if found in a situation with an aggressive, fearful, angry dog.
It is important that a child knows when a dog is nervous and wants to be left alone, when the dog is not paying attention to you, when the dog is uncomfortable, when the dog is becoming angry and when the dog is scared. Children should also be able to recognize when a dog is happy, welcoming play and wants to be petted.
A child should also know what to do in a situation where they are approached by an unknown dog, so that they stay safe.
If a child is approached by an unknown dog or an aggressive dog, the child should know the following three steps:
1- Plant your feet: Don't run, Stay still. Dogs like to chase.
If you run, the dog will chase you.
2- Fold your hands: Dogs lose interest when your hands are not moving.
Stay still. Keep your hands still.
3- Bow your head down or stare at the ground: Do not make eye contact.
Look away from the dog's face.
If a child would like to interact with an unknown dog, the child and parent should find the owner and ask for permission. They should then respect the owner's wishes and only interact with the dog when the owner is present and watching. The child should first offer the dog his or her hand to smell, before touching the dog.
Interacting with dogs doesn't have to be scary and it should be a fun experience. Cherished Companions offers a variety of classes for children and animals, be sure to check them out! Also, let me know of any experiences you may have had with dogs or other animals as a child.