Q: What can I do to be sure my kids are safe around dogs?

A: Over four million people suffer from dog bites every year in the U.S. alone. If this statistic isn’t bad enough, over two million of them are children. Seventy-five percent of these bites are from dogs that the victim knows. These injuries often cause significant trauma and many require hospitalization.

A dog who is trained using positive methods is less likely to be aggressive. Also, the risk of a bite can be reduced dramatically when children and adults are taught how to approach and handle dogs, read the warning signals, and avoid risky situations.

Here are the safety rules I share with kids in my Paws For Peace™ school programs. Of course, they work for adults too.

  1. Always ask permission before approaching or petting a dog.
  2. Don’t pet or approach an unfamiliar dog, especially if food or toys are involved.
  3. Don’t approach or pet a strange, untrained, or injured dog. Also, don’t approach a strange dog if the dog’s exit is blocked or if the dog is up against a wall.
  4. Stay out of other people’s yards.
  5. Never tease a dog.
  6. Don’t blow puffs of air into a dog’s face, pull a dog’s tail, or try to lift a dog off the ground.
  7. Don’t wake a sleeping dog.
  8. Instruct children never to run through the house waving their arms. This can excite some dogs who then want to join in the fun and chase the children, which could lead to an accident.
  9. Never leave a child alone with a dog and if food is used in training, err on the side of safety. Never use food if the dog gets uncontrollable or aggressive. Call a professional trainer.