Every morning I pass a toddler who lunges at Teddy under the eyes of her laughing nanny. This little girl is not dog smart, neither is her oblivious nanny. If Teddy wasn’t so used to children, and so au fait with sidestepping the ones he doesn’t trust, this could be tricky.
It’s only since I’ve been holding the other end of a lead that I’ve realised how few children know the best way to approach a dog. Of course, some dogs won’t freak out if a child rushes up to them, some of them won’t bare their teeth if they get an unexpected kiss on the nose or if they get hugged too hard. But some of them will. During 2013-2014, 1,160 children in the UK were hospitalized because of dog bites. The dog population is on the increase, so Dogs Trust’s new initiative is an important one.
The dog welfare charity has just launched Be Dog Smart: a programme designed to teach children how to be safe around dogs. Their team of 22 Education Officers will be spreading the message across the UK and delivering Be Dog Smart workshops and advice. There is a range of helpful advice and downloads on their Be Dog Smart web page. The focus of the information are the 10 key points to remember:
Beware of disturbing dogs that are eating or sleeping.
Even if for fun, don’t ever tease a dog please.
Don’t approach a dog with no owner around.
Only stroke a dog when the owner says ‘Yes, you can.’
Get the dog to sniff your hand first, then stroke gently.
Strange dog approaching? Stand still, look away, cross your arms (Do the X-Factor!).
Move calmly and quietly around any dog.
All that hugging and kissing – you might like it, dogs don’t!
Remember all dogs have teeth.
Treat dogs with respect and they will respect you!
As Dogs Trust Chief Executive, Adrian Burder, points out: “All children remember their Green Cross Code and we want Be Dog Smart to be just as well known.” That’s an excellent plan.