It’s difficult to get accurate data about dog bites, but one thing is certain: The majority of victims are children under 10 and they are more likely than adults to be bitten severely enough to require hospitalization and reconstructive surgery.

That’s why the Be a Tree program, geared towards preventing children from getting bitten, is so essential.  On this week’s Animal Cafe podcast, Joan Orr of Doggone Safe discusses the program, which employs such strategies as staying as still as a tree and looking down at feet that remain rooted to the ground.  Orr also emphasizes the importance of reading canine body language accurately, citing yawning as one common sign of stress that kids — and many adults — fail to recognize. (The latter group included me, pre-Frankie — thus the title of AM I BORING MY DOG?)

To learn more about the program in time for May 15, which kicks off the week-long International Bite Prevention Challenge for 2011, tune in to the interview with Orr on Animal Cafe, conducted by Certified Pet Dog Trainer Eric Goebelbecker of Dog Spelled Forward. Then come back to the site for a live chat with Orr on Wednesday, April 13, 9PM EST.

It’s a topic you can’t learn too much about.




9 thoughts on “A Cause without Teeth: Preventing Dog Bites in Kids”

  1. Have you every seen any research that talks about how many children are bitten by dogs they know and are friendly with as opposed to strange dogs?

    I think of the “be a tree” approach as the most effective way to deal with a dog showing signs of aggression. But, anecdotally, most of the stories I’ve heard of children being bitten by dogs involved doing inappropriate thing with dogs in their own home (one bite occurred after a child performed a rectal insertion on his dog; another occurred after tightly squeezing and hugging a dog).

    That said, teaching kids about reading dog body language and just what is the right way to treat a dog you love would be a good start.

    Thanks for passing this on. I have several Animal Cafe interview to get caught up on. I guess the list just got longer. I’ve gotta get an iPod.

    1. I have seen such research — but, again, the numbers are very hard to track because not all bites are reported and not all bites are created equal. And you’re absolutely right, the majority of children are bitten at home by the family dog, often of a so-called gentle breed, though I doubt — at least I hope! — rectal insertion isn’t as common as hugging. Far too many adults don’t realize how important supervision is, especially with kids under 5.

      This program is designed for encounters with unfamiliar dogs. As you’ll hear from the podcast — just start with this one, pre-iPod! — kids often miss signs of stress that then escalate into aggression, such as yawning and lip-licking. So it’s not only good for dogs showing signs of aggression but also dogs that are frightened and don’t want to be approached.

  2. This sounds like there will be a lot of very important information. What a great program. There needs to be more people thinking of ways to actively prevent dog bites from happening in the first place, instead of just blaming and banning the dogs after they do.

  3. Just stopped a toddler from coming up to Rufus yesterday on his evening walk. The toddler was with his mum who asked if it was okay to pat him, then didn’t bother to wait for my answer. The toddler started running up to Rufus from behind. I instantly blocked him and told the mum Rufus was very old, arthritic and could be grumpy, which made her hastily pull her child back. I then had to spend another few minutes assuring her he was not a vicious dog but it just wasn’t a good idea for kids to rush up to strange dogs, especially if the kid’s head could fit into the dog’s mouth. Then of course, I had to make sure the toddler wouldn’t grow up afraid of big dogs and had to take his hand and gently put it on Rufus. I could see the mum wasnt too pleased with my reaction and “lecture”. ARRRGH. That’s all I can say, after years of this silly behavior.

    1. Ay, yi, yi! It’s not easy having to be an ambassador for dogs in general and your dog in particular. Kids are always trying to run up and pet Frankie, who hides behind me. I always try to explain that rushing at dogs, even small ones, is a terrible idea. I know it doesn’t sink in. The takeaway lesson, given by Frankie, is that you can easily scare small dogs.

  4. I like the idea of teaching children how to behave when around any dog, Be The Tree, is easy for kids to do, and is very effective for keeping dogs from feeling cornered or stressed.

  5. Pingback: Blog the Change: Doggone Safe » PupLove

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