That's Meredith in the picture teaching a first grade class how to be safe around all dogs, not just their own. We have beautiful presentation boards based on pictures of our own dogs (that's Lily and my husband as the "Safe Dog - grown-up owner, leash and collar" board in the background) and two life-size (and very life-life) puppets that lend a hand as well. It's a standard Dog Safety presentation that is done in most communities these days.
What does Dog Safety mean?
It means we teach the kids they need to see all three things before it is safe to go up to a dog and pet it. But first, they must ask the owners permission. If the owner says yes, they have to say hello to the dog by letting it sniff their hand. Then it is safe to pet them on the chest, the shoulder or the back.
If a stray dog approaches them, they are to stand like a tree. Kids have two legs. Dogs have four. It is unlikely that a child will ever outrun a dog. Staying frozen and being as boring as possible helps keep them safe.
We also teach safety around their own dogs. Don't touch your dog when she is with her babies. Don't pet her while she is sleeping. Don't ever pet her while she is eating. Don't take things out of their mouth.
Why is this an important lesson?
In April, we had a particularly bad week with a few children receiving bites that were preventable. One got bit when she sat on her dog while it was sleeping. The dog, startled, turned and bit her. Another child got bit running up to his mom dog while she was nursing her puppies. A third child was severely bitten when he got too close to his own dog's food bowl. These are all situations we teach children NOT to touch for this exact reason. By educating children, who in turn can educate their parents with our take home handouts, we are preventing bites like this. We empower children and we save dogs because a dog that bites is usually a dog that ends up euthanized.
More and more communities are coming on board with Dog Safety. The CDC, the AKC and the AVMA recommend starting programs in your area because the majority of dog bites are preventable. Even if you don't have one in your area, you can go over these basics with your children to help keep them safe. Here is a link to the CDC web page to get you started. Or you can book us for your school, here.