Paws for a Moment by Bonny Corbeil

Safety with Dogs

The Friends of the Park sponsored a wonderful community Earth Day last month. The ACC was invited to participate because, of course, animals and our relationship with them is a big part of learning to cooperatively live together in harmony on this wonderful planet called Earth! The ACC’s focus was to remind children to be kind to animals and to demonstrate to all of the children on how to approach dogs they do not know and keep themselves safe.

Do you know that dogs use their sense of smell to “check you out?” That is often why a dog will come over and start smelling your pant leg—it is its way of making your acquaintance! How you should respond to this is by slowly extending your hand, fingers rolled under, and allow the dog to smell you. It is the best way to introduce yourself to the animal. Talk softly and slowly and say hello in a friendly way.

Sometimes by quickly reaching out and laying your hand on the dog, you can illicit fear and confusion in the animal. It does not know you and it is not sure if you are a kind person or ready to do harm. If it is a dog that you do not know, always ask permission of the dog owner to introduce yourself and pet their dog. Most dogs love the attention but need to feel safe about being touched by someone they do not know.

Most dogs will never bite anyone, however any dog may bite if it feels threatened. Children are the most common victims of dog bites because too often they do not understand the nature of dogs and how to approach them respectfully. Animals are not toys. They are real creatures with feelings that need to be respected and understood. It is important that adults take the time to teach their children about respecting animals, the responsibilities of pet ownership and interacting with dogs that they do not know.

Here is some good common sense information for you to teach your children:

• Do not go near strange dogs.
• Always ask permission of the owner to pet a dog you do not know.
• Never bother a dog that is eating, sleeping or is caring for their puppies.
• Tell an adult if you see a stray dog hanging around your area especially if it looks hungry or abused. It is good to call our ACC for help.
• Always have an adult around when you play with a dog.
• Never tease a dog—they have feelings just like you!
• Never pet a dog without first letting it smell you.

If you are a dog owner, please respect the fact that some community members are afraid of dogs! They have simply not had the same experiences as you. Always walk your dog on a leash and be mindful of keeping your dog close to you and away from other walkers. Of course, clean up after your dog if it does “its business” on any sidewalks. Bring a simple plastic grocery bag with you, then dispose of it in the garbage. Sometimes people dislike dogs because owners have not been responsible. If you are ever given the opportunity to introduce your animals to those who are interested in petting it, please do! Learning to love pets happens when we share our great friends with others—especially children.

What should we tell children if a stray dog approaches them and they are not sure if it is wild, abused or unfriendly?

Do not run away and scream.
Stand very still “like a tree.”
Avoid making eye-contact with the dog—this can be threatening to the dog.
If you fall or are knocked down by the dog, act “like a log” and use your arms and hands to cover your ears and head. The idea is to not have anything exposed for the dog to try and bite.
When the dog sees that you are not a threat, it will probably just walk away.
If you are bitten by a dog, tell an adult right away!

Pause for a moment—always be sure that you are being safe around animals. Always ask permission to pet someone’s dog.