It would seem that every summer newspapers are speckled with stories about dog bites.
In the summer months we all seem to spend more time outside — adults, children and pets. That summer heat only lasts a season in Manitoba, and most of us want to take advantage of it while we can.
With more people and pets out and about, there is definitely an increase in interaction between humans and dogs.
About 40 per cent of reported dog-bite cases involve children. Experts believe this is because kids do not always understand how to read a dog’s warning signals.
The truth is most children wait for a growl to move away from a dog, and assume a wagging tail means the dog is friendly. This isn’t always the case.
There are many steps that pet owners can take to prevent dog bites. However, this week, I thought I would share a few safety tips for children when they are around dogs they do not know.
Do not approach a dog running loose.
If children find a dog running loose, they should always ask an adult for help. Some dogs will be very friendly until someone attempts to corner them, restrain them or pick them up. When you do not know a dog, you don’t know what things make it afraid or upset.
Simply stand still.
When a strange dog approaches, stand still and allow the dog to sniff without making any attempt to pet or reach for the dog. Many children are taught to offer their hand to a dog to sniff — and this isn’t always the best approach.
Allow the dog to come and sniff your shoes and legs, as this is much less threatening to a dog. Plus it keeps fingers out of harm’s way.
It is also important to never throw your hands up into the air. A dog may misinterpret this as an attempt to strike him, and the reaction may result in a bite.
Never approach a dog through a fence, car window or on a leash without getting an owner’s permission first. While they may look cute and friendly, some dogs can be protective of their owners or their property — and they may seem just fine until you get too close.
Some dogs are good with adults, but fearful around kids.
Another important reason to ask for permission is that even the friendliest dog might have a sore or ear infection that makes a certain spot on their body sensitive to touch.
Always, always ask before you pet a dog you don’t know.
Respect a dog’s space.
Not every dog wants to be hugged and squeezed tightly, and there are many cases where children are bitten in the cheek or nose while attempting to hug a dog.
Children should also understand to give space to dogs when they are eating, sleeping or chewing a bone. It’s best to invite a dog over to play — calling him over to you, away from the food or bed. If the dog does not come over when invited, he might want some space and privacy while he eats, sleeps or enjoys his treat.
This is one of the most common reasons children are bitten by dogs. Poking a stick through a fence, waving a toy just out of reach, and waving food under a dog’s nose are just a few ways that some children will taunt dogs.
This type of behaviour should NEVER be tolerated. It is not funny, and most dogs do not understand the game. They just become more worked up and frustrated as the teasing continues — and this will inevitably lead to a bite.
It is very important to teach children that dogs are animals that deserve our respect. With so many sweet, friendly dogs out there, many children become fearless with animals. Children should not be taught to fear dogs. They should be taught to simply to respect them, and to understand that animals communicate differently from people.
Young children should always be supervised around dogs — even when the dog is known to be good with children. Remember, young children may have a harder time interpreting those warning signals. Supervision is the best way to ensure that you are there to help.
Dana Grove is an animal lover who works with several pet organizations in Brandon.