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Dog Tip: Safe Kids/Safe Dogs!

This is the first in a series on children and dogs, which is important reading whether or not you have children. Below is the article "Safe Kids/Safe Dogs" by trainer Karen Peak, followed by the full version of Ms. Peak's instructive letter that appeared recently in the Washington Post.

SAFE KIDS/SAFE DOGS

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), dog bites are one of the primary reasons children require emergency medical attention. Boys ages 5-9 have the highest rate of being bitten. According to the CDC, most bites (70-80%) occur from the family dog or the dog of someone the child knows.

There is no "perfect" dog for a family. Research into the type, source, proper maintenance, the time and effort the owner puts into the dog are the real keys to having a safer dog. Even if you do not have children, your dog must learn how to behave around them.

Children from a young age must learn to behave around dogs. Proper supervision and education are important. Even if you do not own a dog, your child must learn how to be safer around them.

Following are things every child, parent and dog owner should be aware of.

FOR THE PARENT AND CHILD:

* Never run up to a dog, even one you know.
* Never scream or run around a dog, even your own.
* Approach dogs from the side or front. Do not sneak up on a dog from behind or while the dog is sleeping or eating.
* Never approach a dog without adult supervision, even if the dog belongs to a friend or neighbor.
* Always let the dog sniff you first, and do not stare him in the eye since this can make some dogs feel threatened.
* Pat under the chin or on the back. Some dogs may get nervous if you touch the top of the head.
* If approached by a dog, stand still. If you are on a bike, stop, put the bike down [or hold the bike up between you and the dog] and stand still. Never run or ride away.
* Never approach a dog that is acting afraid or one that is growling or showing teeth, even if the owner is there.
* Never hang over fences or put your hands through fence openings to touch a dog, even one you know.
* Leave a mother and pups alone, or the mother may become protective.
* Avoid rough games such as tug-of-war, jumping up for toys or food, wrestling and chasing.
* Never tease or hit a dog or pull ears, tail or feet.
* Always inform an adult if you see a loose dog. * Never run away from a dog since this can encourage a chase.
* If a dog threatens you, avoid eye contact, hold a rolled-up jacket or book bag in front of you and back away slowly. Do not scream or run. The dog could chase you.
* If a dog attacks, roll up like a ball [hiding your face] and put your hands behind your neck.

Parents, do not leave children and dogs alone together.

FOR THE DOG OWNER:

* Begin training and socializing your dog or puppy starting the first day it comes into your house. Enroll in a positively based Puppy or Adult dog obedience class.
* Get your dog accustomed to having every part of the body handled.
* Never allow a child to scream, yell or run around a dog. Even if the dog and child belong to you.
* Keep your dog securely fenced and not tied in your yard. Tying can encourage unwanted behaviors.
* Keep your dog leashed when in public. If you want to let him run, go to an enclosed area designated for off-leash dogs such as a dog park.
* Never leave your dog unattended in the yard. The temptation for children to visit can be too great.
* Make sure your dog knows the rules of greeting, always sitting calmly. If the dog cannot sit, the dog cannot be greeted.
* Never let a child walk a dog unsupervised. Even a medium-sized dog can pull down a child or the child may become frightened and drop the leash.
* Always supervise children (even teenagers) with dogs. And do not hesitate to reinforce the behaviors from both that you want.
* Never force your dog to "say hi" if he is acting wary of a person.
* Monitor your dog's behavior and address any concerns immediately with a trainer or behaviorist.
* Use every opportunity to teach about dog safety.
* Spay/Neuter your dog.
* Do not leave dogs alone with a child.

This was developed by West Wind Dog Training. No part may be reproduced without written permission from Karen Peak. www.SafeKidsSafeDogs.com

On December 21, the Washington Post published an abridged version of a letter written by Karen Peak in response to a recent incident involving a baby severely injured by a Dachshund. Here is the complete letter as Ms. Peak wrote it:

Dear Editor,

I just completed "Mauling Baffles Dachshund Lovers" and had to wrote to you. I am both a professional dog trainer in Virginia and the developer of The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project. I am also a parent of a four-year-old.

This article disturbed me on many levels. The Dachshund rescue's comment about this being abnormal for a Dachshund combined with the reporter's statement that it seemed shocking that it was not a pit or Rottie doing the mauling may lead parents to feel that there is a safe dog for families and some that are not. There is no 100% safe breed or cross of dog for a family. Simple as that.

This child was left unattended with a dog. Yes, the child was in a playpen but still there was no supervision of child and dog. In 2001, according to the Washington Animal Foundation, there were deaths attributed to Beagles, Pomeranians and Labs. Only one confirmed from an American Pit Bull Terrier.

Even a tiny dog can kill an infant. I have worked with children and dogs for years. Most dog bites are a combination of three things: (1) inadequate training, socializing and building of tolerance in the dog; (2) Improper training and socializing of the child (I started work with my son the day he came home); (3) improper supervision of children and dogs when together.

Dogs do not view children as we do. Children may be viewed as prey (fast movements and higher voices), puppies (who need) to be disciplined, toys, etc. Without being there to see the mauling happen, no one will know what drove the dog to do this. The dog may have been trying to play or acting on the hunting drives present in many Dachshunds. Dogs do not use the same method of communicating we do. Dogs use body language and even nips to get points across.

It is how we adults work with the situations that is vital as well as the positions we leave our children and dogs in. Often we humans are less than adequate in our understanding of dogs, their drives and their language. This can lead to tragedy.

The rule with children and dogs must be: if child is going to be left alone in a room, the dog must be taken out with the adult. Even if the child is confined, the dog must be removed from the room.

Sadly, I work with situations like this all the time. Never a week goes by when I do not get contacted to give my opinion on a dog-related injury situation. This is why I developed the Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project: to reduce the chance of dog-related injury through education of parents, children and dog owners. Our children and dogs will only be as safe as we make them, regardless of breed or cross.

As a parent and owner of several dogs, I feel for the parents. But when I sit and watch my pre-schooler interact with my dogs, I realize how vital education is.

Karen Peak
The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project
West Wind Dog Training
www.WestWindDogTraining.com
www.SafeKidsSafeDogs.com

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Last Updated: June 23, 2013 (LET) PawSupport