Yesterday, I had the opportunity to go to a preschool and speak to the children about veterinary medicine. I love doing these school visits because the children are always so excited and they say the cutest things. My furry sidekick, Ripken, also enjoys these visits because she thrives on excessive amounts of attention.
With the older kids, I talked about a typical day in the life of a veterinarian, showed a few interesting x-rays, and invited them to "gown up" like a surgeon and touch some surgical instruments. They took turns listening to Ripken's heart and watched in awe as she got a vaccine and did not even cry.
When speaking with the younger kids, I decided to focus on safety around dogs. We talked about how to greet a new dog, what to do if a dog is making you feel nervous, and how to treat your family dog with respect. They were very receptive to what I had to say about how to act around other people's dogs. They agreed, nodded their heads, and practiced the techniques. They started to question my logic, however, when I talked about how to act around their own beloved family member. "My dog likes when I hug him." "I always kiss my dog on top of her head and she doesn't bite me." "My dad says it's ok to climb on my dog's back."
These are the scary statistics:
- 4.7 million people in this country are bitten by dogs every year
- Children are by far the most common victims and typically sustain more severe injuries
- 50% of all children in the United States will be bitten by a dog before their 12th birthday
- 800,000 bite victims require medical attention annually
- The majority of dog bites to children occur from a familiar dog
Many of us have idyllic pictures in our minds of the bonds formed between our children and their canine companions. We remember with warmth the dogs from our childhood. I believe that a child that has a great dog in their life will be better off because of it. But we need to educate our kids to respect their dogs and to become fluent in doggy body language.
Some things to remember:
- A dog that is uncomfortable will turn his head away, lick his lips, or yawn. Watch for this!
- Many dogs will tolerate being hugged or kissed on the head, but they do not enjoy it.
- Even a dog that respects your authority might guard his resources (food, toy, resting place). This is normaldog behavior.
- Do not allow your child to do to your dog what you would not allow him to do to his baby sister. Teach respect.
So I reviewed the dog rules with the preschoolers and encouraged them to bring the reading material home to their moms and dads. I am hoping they will take a moment to read through it together.
Kids and dogs do go together like peanut butter and jelly. Sandwiched between attentive parents and a large amount of mutual understanding.
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