Warmer months mean spending more time outside. This is especially so for kids. While there’s plenty of fun to be had on playgrounds, in parks, and at the pool, we should also be aware of some potential dangers. It’s important to teach children that there are safety rules that must be followed, whether they are at home or outside playing.
One of the biggest dangers kids face in summer is the threat of dog bites. Perhaps because both kids and animals spend more time outdoors during those months, the risk is higher from March to September, according to one study. In 2013, over 4,600 dog bites were reported in New York alone, with half of those occurring in August. Because there are more opportunities for social gatherings and play dates at the park, dogs and kids alike can become overheated and grouchy in summer, making their close proximity dangerous. Because of that danger, be aware of the following child safety tips to prevent dog bites.
The warning signs of a dog who may be about to attack include a tucked tail, stiffness in the legs or body, and pinned back ears. Watching your dog’s body language carefully could mean the difference between a good day and a bad one.
“These are usually strong signals that your dog is pretty uncomfortable, and you should just create some space for them,” says dog trainer Sarah Fraser. Never leave your dog alone in an area where other people are, she says, “because you can’t be there to look out for them if someone approaches them and they get uncomfortable.”
Here are some of the best safety tips for children where dogs are concerned:
Teach your child to always steer clear of an animal that is displaying these behaviors, and to always ask the owner if it’s okay to pet or come close to the dog. It’s also important not to bother a dog who is eating, sleeping, or has puppies close.
Teach your child how to pet a dog. It may seem like a simple thing, but most dogs don’t like having a human put their face near theirs. Instead, have your child pet the top of the head and back, and no wrapping their arms around the dog as much as they may be tempted.
Let your child know that they should never approach a dog who is behind a fence or inside a car, as they are territorial and will likely get aggressive if they feel the need to defend their home/master.
Teach your child how to handle an encounter with an unfamiliar dog, such as curling up in the fetal position if a dog attacks to protect the stomach, with hands locked behind the neck. A growling, approaching dog might inspire a child to run away, but that will likely only draw a chase. Instead, tell your child to stand still and not to scream or draw attention to himself.
If you are a pet owner, there are things you can do to keep your pet and nearby children safe. These include:
Spaying or neutering your pet, which can help them keep calm.
Socialize your dog from an early age, if possible. Help them have new experiences around many different types of people so there’s no anxiety when they encounter someone different.
Always supervise your dog and keep him or her on a leash when you’re out together. Your pet will likely look to you for cues on how to react to situations, so be clear in your body language and commands.
As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So keeping these child safety tips to prevent dog bites in mind will make being outside during the warmer months even more enjoyable.
Joyce Wilson loved being a teacher, and though she has recently retired, she hasn’t lost that passion. She continues to educate (and help educators) by mentoring teachers in her area. She is also the co-creator of TeacherSpark.org, a resource for teachers to gather fun, engaging lesson ideas and activities.
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