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Bite Prevention: Do It Early and Often

Ann Withun on May 01, 2012

May 20 - 26 is National Dog Bite Prevention Week in the USA, and the International Dog Bite Prevention Challenge is on all across the world. The goal of the Challenge is to educate 50,000 children during the month of May about safety around dogs.

As behavior consultants, it’s no surprise to us to hear the statistics, read the tragic articles, and see our own cases where things have already gone wrong between a child and a dog. We also know all too well the consequences. Dog bites can leave children frightened of dogs for life, or worse. The dog may lose his home, his family, or his life. When we get a case like this, we wish we could go back in time, to be able to set things in place before a bite happens.

Well, your time machine has arrived.

The great news is that dog bites are preventable through education. The other great news is that as a behavior consultant, you can use your expertise and role in the community to be part of this rewarding work. I encourage you to offer just one small educational event this May, to reach just a few children in your community. It doesn’t have to be huge to be hugely impactful – sometimes it seems our “thinking big” can paralyze us into inaction, when even the smallest, easiest efforts can reap such large rewards.

Find Your Audience

In this age of schools, libraries, and community organizations struggling to find funding for educational programs, I assure you that it’s not hard to find someone willing to host your bite prevention program! Many of these groups will help with advertising the event, coordinating the venue, all the way to greeting participants when they arrive. Try the librarian at your local library, your local girl or boy scout troop, the nurse or a teacher at your local elementary school, daycare centers, youth sports teams, etc. If you don’t have children yourself, ask a friend or neighbor with children if their kids are part of any groups that might like to organize this program.

teach a child, save a dog

Prepare Your Presentation… or use one that’s already done for you!

Doggone Safe produces an awesome Teacher’s Kit for their Be a Tree program. In no time, I was able to familiarize myself with the presentation to a level that I felt confident presenting it to a group. Even to a group of elementary school kids, and I *don’t* have mad kid-skills or kids of my own… The kit comes with a DVD that shows an example of the presentation being given. It has large poster-boards with great visuals on the front, and your script on the back. Simply pick them up in order, cover the points on back, and voila! – professional presentation. Check it out at www.doggonesafe.com – where the kits are on sale for the Challenge.

Or… simply distribute great educational materials.

In addition to Doggone Safe’s great stuff, Dr. Sophia Yin also has super Bite Prevention materials on her website, both free printable materials and low cost materials available for purchase. Visually appealing cartoons and captions show adults and children alike how to greet a dog, and how to recognize canine warning signals.

Even more great news: volunteering in your community is great for your business too! This might be an excellent time to form a mutually beneficial partnership with another local business that caters to children. Parents who attend or who read a take-home handout will know just who to call when they need your services. Attendees will certainly refer others to that wonderful dog professional they met at the Be a Tree presentation that had the great advice and caring attitude. They will learn how to see warning signs that might indicate they need your professional assistance. Potential clients get to see your expertise in action, which is the best commercial one could ask for.

I find it amazing how quickly children pick up on canine body language that adults miss so often, or that adults are more reluctant to learn about. These children who learn early to observe dog behavior, and to empathize with dogs, will carry this insight with them forever, growing into adults who have better relationships with the animals they interact with. Don’t underestimate the impact you might have. We all remember lessons from childhood that changed the way we look at things. You have the ability to impact a child in that same way, and to help people and dogs before a bite happens.

Ann Withun, BS, ACDBC, CPDT-KA
IAABC Board of Directors (secretary)
Instructor & Behavior Consultant at Fieldwood Dog Training Center
Dog Scouts of America Board of Directors


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