Previously I posted a press release about the Holiday Dog Safety Program we’re offering for kids and families at the Wendell Free Library. It is based on the Doggone Safe “Be A Tree” dog safety program. I have received a lot of questions about the program. I hope the Q&A below answers your questions.
Q: What is the “Be A Tree” program?
A: It is a fun, interactive, one-hour program that teaches school-age kids skills and techniques to be safe around dogs. Games, visuals, and fun activities keep kids engaged and help them remember.
Q: Why is this needed?
A: Kids are at a high risk for dog bites: most dog bites in the US occur when a family dog bites a child. Over half of kids under 12 are bitten by dogs. Children are also more likely to be bitten in the face. But there is good news! The great majority of dog bites are easily preventable when kids are given information and practice in how to interact with dogs and when to leave dogs alone. This program will give kids these tools.
Q: Is this a dog-training program? Should I bring our dog?
A: No, this is an educational program for children to learn new information and skills, and for adults who spend time with children to learn to pass on this information. Please leave your dog at home.
Q: What age kids is this program for?
A: It’s intended for elementary-school age kids (K-5), and is ideal for second and third grade kids, but older kids and adults are encouraged to attend. Even kids as young as three or four years old can get a lot out of the program, though they tend to move through the material a little more slowly.
Q: Will there be dogs at this program?
A: No, this program uses poster-size pictures of dogs, puppets, stuffed toy dogs, and people pretending to be dogs to practice the skills. We find that children focus and learn better without a live dog present.
Q: My dog is very well-behaved and would never bite my children. Can this program still be useful?
A: Yes, because 1) Even if your dog is a saint, your child will meet many dogs over the years. This program teaches lifelong skills to keep safe around dogs. 2) Under the right set of circumstances, any dog can bite. Even very good, well-behaved, sweet dogs. In fact, in most cases, when a dog bites a child, it’s a family dog the child knows. 3) Even good dogs can be overly frisky and rambunctious, which can be scary for small children. This program also teaches kids how to act to make an overly frisky dog go away.
Q: Will the program talk a lot about dog bites? Won’t that be scary to kids?
A: No, the program doesn’t talk about bites. It is fun and age-appropriate, teaching kids when a dog wants to be left alone and how to make an overly frisky or growly dog go away.
Q: Why is it called a “holiday” dog safety program?
A: The skills that kids (and adults) will learn can be used year-round. But we wanted to offer the program before the holiday season because this is a time when many families visit relatives or friends. Such get-togethers often involve noise, commotion, large groups, and changes in routine, all of which can stress dogs. When stressed dogs are combined with more kids and dogs together, it increases the risk of bites.
Q: I don’t believe in coddling children. If a dog nips them, it’s a useful lesson in respecting animals.
A: Not all dogs nip before they inflict a real bite. Dog bites to children are often bites to the face, which are more likely to cause serious injuries that require medical attention than other types of bites. It is more humane for dogs and children to give kids safety information about dogs.
Q: I can’t make it to the upcoming program. Will this be offered again?
A: I am happy to offer this program at your child’s school, 4-H club, scout troop, etc. Get in touch with me to discuss this, or talk to the school principal or scout leader, etc., and see if there is interest. I also offer this program to families whose dogs I’m training. Frequently, when a dog or puppy is out of control, the most effective plan is to start training the dog or puppy so the adults in the family have some help controlling the dog. Once the dog has a start on self-control, I teach the kids how to “Be A Tree” with their dog so they have good options if the dog or puppy forgets itself. This way, everyone in the family has good options!