Promoting mutual respect and understanding between children and dogs: Attitude, bite prevention and control.

Kachina Canine Communication is dedicated to teaching the younger generations about responsible dog ownership and how to be respectful and caring towards animals. This is a theme most often given to school children and is vitally important for the next generation of dog owners to understand best practice guidelines for owning, handling and interacting with dogs.

Dogs are one of the nations favourite pets. More and more people are buying dogs as pets whether as a puppy or from a rescue centre, where the dog may already suffer with behavioural issues. Scientific studies have shown that children under the age of four and between five to nine years are more like to be bitten by a dog and, most commonly, a dog that is known to them!

For many dog owners, including those that have children and those that do not, there are still many ill-informed pieces of information available that many owners believe to be the correct way to interact and educate their dog. These can inadvertently cause the dog to be more reactive and less tolerable towards humans simply as a result of the dog receiving poor guidance and education from their human teachers. In the effort to prevent generational errors from adult to children about dog interaction and communication, the best starting point is to educate children so they understand the correct way to interact with a dog and what to avoid to prevent incidents of dog bites becoming more common.

Dr Isla Fishburn offers talks to primary, seconday and after school clubs (with parents and children) to educate children about why a dog may be reactive, what to look out for and how to interact with dogs. She also offers a one day course for the family to provide guidelines for parents that are concerned about dog-child interactions and how to supervise and responsibly include a dog and child in to a family, understand behaviour and how to control dog-child interactions with positive outcomes.

The educational program will be separated in to three distinct groups:

  • Primary school children – those that fall in to the five to nine age group and thus most likely to be bitten.
  • After school events with parents – those of a younger age (and including primary school age group) or for parents that want to learn more about preventing dog bites and understanding dog-human interactions.
  • Secondary school children – those that can identify responsible interactions with dogs and understand consequences of dog-human interactions
  • Parent and child one day course – this is an fun and informative course where all the family can attend to learn about dog-child and dog-human interactions, causes and preventions of dog bites and how to create a safe and respectful environment for your child and dog. These will be held in the summer holidays.

Primary School Children talks.

At this age children are more at risk at being bitten by a dog and to suffer more severe injuries given the sensitivity of the child at this age as well as generally a dog bite will occur around the face of a child in this age group. Children are more at risk in this age group given the perception of where a dog will view a child within the family group; a young pup that can be reprimanded and disciplined just as any other pup would receive. Discipline from a dog to a child can be inadvertently taught by the parent because in this age group, and just before, parents are seen to scold and discipline their child. A dog will see this as the child is capable and is of an age to receive discipline when it has done something wrong. In addition, children in this age group are more likely to be bitten because they are poor at understanding and identifying dog interactions.

As such, the educational program for children in this age group will focus on the following:

~ An interactive story of why we live with dogs and why we like them

~ Understanding that dogs can bite and why they might bite children of this age group. This will be an interactive opportunity for the children to think about what might cause a dog to bite and why would a dog bite; is the dog afraid, scared, in pain, sleeping, eating etc

~ To invite the children to think about the different areas on a dog’s body and to think where it is safe to and to not touch a dog

~ To invite the children to think about how their actions could cause a dog to bite (e.g. to walk rather than run, to not scream or shriek, to not hug or pull on their dog)

~ To provide a basic understanding that all dogs are not the same (do not do to one dog that you can safely do to another), to never be alone with a dog and always ask an adult before approaching a dog, even if it the family dog.

The talk for primary school children will last for 30 to 45 minutes.

After school clubs with parents

This is an opportunity for parents to attend a talk with their children that do or do not own a dog. The talk will last between an hour to an hour and a half and will discuss the causes and preventions of dog bites in children and what parents can do to continue educating their children about appropriate dog-children interactions. Given the age group of children that are most likely to be bitten by a dog as well as children of this age group not being able to understand all the information, parents can listen to the talk and understand signs, behaviours and interactions to promote to their children for positive interactions with dogs and when to prevent their children from interacting with a dog. This is also opportunity for parents to consider attending the one day seminar for parents and children that will be given by Dr Isla Fishburn in the summer holiday.

This talk will focus on similar topics discussed above but also include Q&A for parents and additional information of what parents need to be aware of, including how dogs see children and why they are more likely to be bitten.

Secondary school talks.

In this age group, children are better able to absorb knowledge and understand consequences as a result of their actions. These talks are designed to be informative, fun and captivating for the children but with the clear message of how to interact with a dog and how to avoid being bitten. The talk is more detailed and contains video footage for the children to watch. The children will then be presented with a few scenarios by way of observing how much they have learnt from the talk. The talk will include:

~ Adapted story of mans relationship with dog

~ Different breeds and different jobs of dogs

~ How do dogs view children and how does this affect dog-child interactions

~ Individuality of dogs and how they can show different types of reactivity

~ How to identify and understand basic dog communication

~ What can cause a dog to be reactive and how to prevent this

~ How we should be respectful and cooperative with a dog (and animals in general)

~ What to do and what to avoid when interacting with or near an unknown dog

~ Scenarios to think about when with a dog to assess how much information the pupils have retained.

The talk for secondary school children will last for 1 to 1.5 hours.

If you would like to arrange for Isla to visit your school, college or university and to give a talk please contact Kachina Canine Communication for further details.