As part of my visit to the Shrewsbury Dogs Trust Shelter I learnt about some of their current campaigns. One that caught my attention straight away was “Be Dog Smart”; it’s a useful set of guidelines on how you should behave around any dog. Since reading up all the resources I have realised how essential it is to stay safe around dogs, with these very sensible precautions. Some of them I was already following with my own boys, I have always told them to ask before patting a dog. But they did not then know the best way to introduce themselves was to let the dog sniff their hand first, so we are learning something new and useful by working through the materials together as a family.
The book Bertie Makes a New Friend especially is a very manageable way for children to grasp the concept of being Dog Smart.
I think it’s an important message to teach our children; who will come into contact with dogs everyday whether at home or out and about on their adventures. The boys have a wonderful friendship with their dog Summer but its worth remembering any dog can bite especially if you ignore this simple advice. Hopefully some of the advice we might never need to implement but having the knowledge gives me the confidence the boys will act appropriately in any given situation. For example if a dog knocks you over it is recommended you curl up into a tight ball to try and protect yourself. Judge the dogs you meet, what does their body language tell you? If they look stressed give them plenty of space. As my boys get older and are out on their own independently I am glad they have some idea about what to do if they encountered an unattended dog. Without an owner present it can be scary, but its important to hold a confident posture whilst not making eye contact with the dog. Never assume a dog is friendly.
I have found myself using the term “Be Dog Smart” a lot more and it seems to be sinking in for my boys, we do not disturb Summer when she is eating or sleeping as she likes her own space then. If we all treated dogs with respect then we could avoid a lot of the unwanted behaviour that probably ends up with the dogs moving onto shelters rather than staying in their original homes. My youngest is quite boisterous so for him especially its been a helpful lesson, he is approaching dogs more calmly now and I feel happier letting him make new doggy friends.
You can download your own copy of the “Be Dog Smart” guide at the Learn With Dogs Trust website.