In many school assemblies that I deliver across the East Midlands, the majority of children who have been hurt by a dog, knew the dog that hurt them.
Research shows that over 70% of bites and strikes to children are by dogs that are familiar to the child and for 89% of bites to children under 5, the parent was present.
We can’t teach dogs why children react like they do, but we can teach children how to behave safely around dogs.
Recently, I heard a headteacher share a story with his pupils about the scar on his lip. One day, at the age of 8, he was playing in the garden when his neighbour’s dog got through the fence and came to say hello. When the dog wanted to return, he decided to help the dog back through the fence by picking him up. The dog stiffened, licked his lips and was obviously not comfortable with this, but the young headteacher wanted to be helpful and continued to push the dog back through the fence. The dog reacted by biting the headteacher.
He told his pupils, had he known more about dogs, he would never have attempted this. He understood that it was his fault the dog bit him, but he was just trying to be kind. If he had been taught never to pick up a dog, how dogs don’t like to be trapped and how he should have got an adult to help, he would not have had the scar on his lip.
If children haven’t been taught how to behave around dogs, then it cannot be their fault. As adults, it is our responsibility to keep our young people safe by teaching them how to behave safely around dogs.
If you would like one of our qualified Education Officers to come into your school to teach your pupils about staying safe around dogs, visit our website at www.learnwithdogstrust.org.uk .