“Is he a biter?” “Is she going to bite me?” “Does she bite?”–these are all phrases I heard while I was living in NY walking my dogs around town. What is interesting to me is that these phrases seem to indicate that some dogs do not bite and will not bite. Dogs have sharp pointy teeth and strong jaws. Their mouths are ridiculously precise and ultra fast (think about the timing and speed needed to catch a ball or disc in mid-air). All dogs, no matter how friendly are absolutely capable of biting. It depends on what their bite threshold is–will the dog bite if you simply give him eye contact, will he bite if you try to take his food, will he bite under extreme fear (say a heavy item was dropped right next to him and he was startled), will he bite under extreme pain? We will never know the bite threshold of many dogs, and that’s a good thing, but the fact remains all dogs are capable of biting.
This week is National Dog Bite Prevention week and there is no way I would let this go by without talking about it–I was, if you recall a teacher and youth educator previously, so this issue is near and dear to my heart. I’m going to try and post something about dog bites each day. I’m going to apologize in advance because some of the body language information will likely be repeats (photos especially) of the body language posts I did recently.
Today I want to draw attention to Doggone Safe, a non-profit devoted to preventing dog bites through education and providing support and information for victims (or families of) dog bites. Doggone Safe is an amazing resource for educators, parents, and canine professionals. Not only does it have links to a plethora of scholarly information on dog bites, dog behaviors, and canine body language, it also has produced an incredibly good dog bite prevention kit.
Doggone Safe’s Be a Tree program is one of the best (if not the best) dog-bite prevention program I’ve read through. There are very few… mild objections/concerns I have with the program. It teaches youth how to properly interact with strange dogs, how to read their body language and how to react if they are rushed by a dog. This program is geared toward 2nd and 3rd graders but can easily be modified for kindergarteners and up to 5th grade students. Although geared toward younger kids, I think that a lot of it could be modified for teens and adults. Like I’ve written about before, many dog-owning adults do not know how to read their dogs body language and do not know how to properly greet other dogs. This program does a great job at explaining both missing pieces of information even for adults.
I haven’t yet purchased the full kit but it is on my list of things I want to buy once funds present themselves. Dog bites are a growing issue and the unfortunate reality is that children are frequent victims. While not all dog-bites can be prevented, I’d say (not verifiable) that the majority of dog bites could easily have been prevented if humans knew how to read their dogs body language, if they knew how to greet new dogs appropriately, and they knew what to do in the case of being rushed by a dog.
If you are an educator, a dog professional, a parent, a 4-H leader, a boy/girl scout leader, please check out the Be a Tree program and consider investing in something that could prevent a dog bite and provide safer interactions between canines and kids.