National Dog Bite Prevention Week occurs each year during the second full week of April. The goal is to educate the public about ways to prevent dog bites to themselves, their families, and communities. This year, Smartypaws had the privilege of hosting daily Dog Aware discussions with colleagues from around the U.S. and Canada. We started off the week talking to the Founder of Family Paws Parent Education, Jennifer Shryock B.A. CDBC, about Creating Dog Aware Generations.
Jennifer began using the term “Dog Aware” several years ago. She noticed that dog bite prevention just wasn’t reaching families and their children who were the most at risk. “Dog bite almost makes people recoil…. most families think not my dog. My dog is a good dog. My dog wouldn’t bite.” So, “Dog Aware is about understanding and recognizing the simple communication signals that dogs offer WAY before a bite.”
Growing Dog Aware skills can be a fun family endeavor where everyone can learn more about how and what dogs are communicating. As a parent, it’s incredibly refreshing to empower our children with a positive message of what they CAN do when interacting with the family pet, rather than commanding the “don’ts”. From the youngest child hearing and learning a simple rhyme like, “One hand is enough, two hands are too rough” for gently petting dogs, to building keener observation skills in adults and older children, families begin equipping their households for safer, healthier interactions with pets. Since children are the most likely to sustain dog related injuries, dog aware education is crucial to raising dogs and kids safely together. Undoubtedly, this mentality shift will not only prevent dog bites within the home, but will also foster safer communities where people interact more appropriately with animals outside of their own homes.
A key piece of building Dog Aware skills is to remain curious about what dogs are experiencing and expressing. Assuming we know how a dog feels or perceives a situation based on past encounters can be dangerous. Dogs change. It’s important to respect each dog in the moment that they’re in and educate yourself on the signs to look for in what they are communicating with their subtle body language cues.
For more information on growing Dog Aware skills or safely raising dogs and children together in the Kansas City area, contact Debra Murray with Smartypaws Dog Training & Family Education. Outside of the KC Metro, find a Family Paws Parent Educator and Dog Trainer near you here.