Sunday, May 25, 2008

Avoid Those Sharp Canines

Apparently last week was Dog Bite Awareness week. I didn’t even know such a thing existed. I wish they did more to publicize this awareness though because I think many a dogs’ lives would be saved if more people knew how to appropriate interact with dogs. I believe that many bites are no fault of the dog but rather the lack of knowledge of the people getting bit.

My dogs are incredibly friendly and have never bitten anyone (well, Trooper did draw blood on Thursday but it’s my fault for having a hot dog in my hand!), even those who approach them incorrectly. My husband is paranoid though, and rightly so, that they could get startled or scared by a young child (or even an older child) and snap at them causing accidental injury.

Anytime a child approaches us and asks if they can pet the dogs I always say yes. But I also watch the kids closely and carefully to see if they are using the proper techniques.

Never approach a strange dog. A dog might look cute and fluffy but if you don’t know him, he doesn’t know you. If you do need to get close to a dog, I’ve had to do this with dogs lost in our neighborhood, do so slowly with your hand out, palm up, and don’t make direct eye contact.

If the dogs owner is there always ask permission to pet their dog. I have had owners tell me no. Some dogs just aren’t friendly with strangers and if an owner says no, just smile and wave at the pretty doggy from a distance.

Always let a dog sniff you first - palm up and hand forward allow the dog to smell you first. Never try to go over their head first. This is one of the most common mistakes kids use. They want to pet the doggies and so go right for the head. Well, the dogs want to know who this strange person is and raise their noses up to sniff. Many kids get freaked out by this because it seems like the dog is ‘going after’ their hands. This even freaks my uncle out (he’s not a dog person). In reality they are just trying to say hi and smell you.

Never tease a dog. Especially a dog you don’t know. I think more dog bites are caused by people “playing” with dogs. Hubby has sustained a few scratches himself, all in fun while playing with our babies. It’s never their fault. They play with their teeth! But I’ve heard many sad stories of kids thinking it was fun to pick on a dog they don’t know and that dog defending himself. And often the dog suffers the ultimate consequence.

Never run away. If a dog is threatening you do not turn and run. I think they say this about bears too. The prey drive is to chase and if you run you’ll be seen as that prey. I notice this with the cats and my dogs. When the cats just stand there the dogs don’t do much harm but if the cats take off quickly the dogs give chase.

Instead of running, stand your ground quietly with your arms at your sides. Again, do not make eye contact. Hopefully the dog will lose interest and leave you alone.

Education is the key. If more children knew how to properly interact with dogs there would be so many fewer traumatic accidents.

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