BE DOG SMART DOGS TRUST’S NEW DOG SAFETY CAMPAIGN
By Ann Evans
Photos: courtesy of Dogs Trust
Walking my dog along the pavement the other day, a grandparent with a toddler aged about three came walking towards us. The child took one look at my dog, friendly though she is, and instantly veered as far away as possible – straight off the pavement and into the road. It concerned me that the child’s guardian hadn’t reacted swiftly enough to grab the child – and luckily there wasn’t any traffic coming, but it drove home the fact that the majority of children just don’t know how to react around strange dogs, and because of this they could get unnecessarily hurt.
A dog safety survey conducted by Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, reveals that almosta third of parents would let their child approach a dog they don’t know, and one in three children are afraid of dogs. Most dog owners will have experienced both scenarios – a child rushing up to stroke their dog and possibly startling it; and a child becoming almost traumatised because a dog comes near them.
Dogs Trust say that the rate of hospital admissions for dog bites is highest among the 0-9 age group and sadly1,160 children were hospitalised during 2013-14. But of course, it’s difficult for a child to think that a friendly-looking dog or the family pet would intentionally hurt them. Yet unfortunately, when a child gets bitten, it’s often a dog they know and all too often in the place we least expect it to happen, like our own home.
Dogs Trust say that just like humans, dogs have a level of tolerance, which we must respect. 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. The number one rule is simple: ‘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.
Dogs Trust Chief Executive, Adrian Burder, says: “Children can come into contact with dogs every day and being around dogs can have so many wonderful benefits, but the simple fact is that all dogs have teeth and any dog can bite or snap if worried, scared or hurt. So, to reduce the number of dog attacks, whether you are a dog owner or not, it is important that we all know and teach our children, grandchildren, pupils and friends how to behave around dogs.
“All children remember their Green Cross Code and we want Be Dog Smart to be just as well known. Dogs Trust is the UK’s largest dog welfare charity with expert knowledge in dog behaviour. Our hope is that simple advice such as never leave your child alone with any dog, never tease a dog, don’t approach a dog you don’t know and always asking the owner before you approach a dog could prevent more dog attacks.”
As part of the Be Dog Smart campaign, Dog Trust’s team of 22 Education Officers are going into schools, libraries and community centres across the country delivering free Be Dog Smart workshops. Key advice will be given to anyone who has responsibility for children – parents, teachers, grandparents, child-minders, foster carers, sports coaches and the children themselves.
Dogs Trust Manchester Education Officer, Anna Baatz, said: “Working with children has been a real eye-opener, they are inquisitive and want to play but they must understand that a dog is not a toy – they don’t always want to play! Simply understanding when a dog says “enough” can be the difference between a bite or not. By working with adults and children alike we can help teach adults and children how to live safely with man’s best friend.”
Dogs Trust point out that there are many reasons why a dog might bite – and any dog could bite if they feel they have no other option or are provoked. There are many specific scenarios to be aware of which could cause a potential risk, for example if the dog is:
- Scared of or worried about the situation/place/person.
- Trapped and backed into a corner.
- Unwell/in pain.
- Protecting the person/property.
- Feeling over excited.
- Surprised or shocked.
Understanding a dog’s body language may make all the difference. Dogs Trust Education Officers showed school children aged 5-11 a series of photos of dogs and asked them to match the emotions. Over half the children questioned thought a growling dog was smiling.
Dogs Trust also offer comprehensive Be Dog Smart resources which are available to download free or to order from website. There’s leaflets, promotional flyers, a classroom poster and their Be Dog Smart Guide.
Their leaflet contains information on how to read your dog’s body language and what to do if a strange dog approaches your child. Their comprehensive guide gives advice to parents on what to do if you are expecting a new baby and how to prepare your dog to how to teach your teenager to behave around dogs to ensure that they stay safe.
The National Childbirth Trust is supporting the Be Dog Smart campaign. Elizabeth Duff, Senior Policy Adviser at NCT said: “A dog can be a happy part of family life but taking a few simple precautions will help to avoid your children incurring any avoidable injuries. The Be Dog Smart guidance offers parents some great tips to keep new babies and toddlers safe around dogs and we would encourage all parents to take a look at them.”
Dogs Trust’s Guide to “Be Dog Smart”:
10 easy tips to remind kids how to stay safe around dogs:
Beware of disturbing dogs that are eating or sleeping.
Even if for fun, don’t ever tease a dog please.
Don’t approach a dog with no owner around.
Only stroke a dog when the owner says ‘Yes, you can.’
Get the dog to sniff your hand first, then stroke gently.
Strange dog approaching? Stand still, look away, cross your arms (Do the X-Factor!).
Move calmly and quietly around any dog.
All that hugging and kissing – you might like it, dogs don’t!
Remember all dogs have teeth.
Treat dogs with respect and they will respect you!
A survey conducted of 2,000 parents in February 2015 by One Poll of behalf of Dogs Trust revealed:
- 44% of parents would leave a child under the age of 11 alone with a dog, and 12% would leave a pre-schooler (under 5) alone with a dog.
- Over 34% of children come into contact with a dog everyday, yet one in three (30%) are afraid of dogs.
- Although 60% of parents say they teach their children to stay safe around dogs, 98% of parents were unaware that there are over 20 signs that a dog may feel uneasy and could be pushed to become aggressive or may bite.
- Almost a third of parents (32%) would let their child approach or pet dogs they don’t know.
- A fifth of parents have seen their child sit or lie on a dog, 19% kiss a dog’s nose, 18% pull a dog’s tail and 14% shout or hit a dog.
Dogs Trust are offering FREE workshops for parents and children to ensure children and dogs can live together safely and happily at home and in the community. If you would like to arrange a Be Dog Smart workshop at your local school, community or leisure centre visit: http://www.learnwithdogstrust.org.uk/workshops-tours/education-officers and contact your local Education and Community Officer.
To download the comprehensive Be Dog Smart guide. Packed with helpful tips and hints about kids interaction with dogs, please visit www.learnwithdogstrust.org.uk
For more information, advice and to book a Be Dog Smart workshop please visit www.bedogsmart.org.uk
And to discover more about Dogs Trust, visit: www.dogstrust.org.uk