Being a tree: Students at East End Primary are being taught to keep perfectly still, or like a tree, when around a strange or aggressive dog. *Photo supplied
Being a tree: Students at East End Primary are being taught to keep perfectly still, or like a tree, when around a strange or aggressive dog. *Photo supplied

Statistics collected from United States and Canada show that 50 per cent of all children have been bitten by a dog.

Dog bites are on the top ten list of reasons for injury, as reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dog bites are considered to be a serious public health problem by the American Veterinary Medical Association and by the Canada Safety Council.

Most bites are by the family dog or another dog known to the child.

All dogs can bite if they feel threatened, scared, challenged or tormented.

In most cases the dog is telling us that he is uncomfortable with a situation before a bite occurs.

Education and training is important to help people in the community understand their dogs and to provide proper positive training for the dog.

We want both the owners and the dogs set up for success.

The Bermuda SPCA has partnered with the non-profit organization Doggone Safe to bring a dog bite prevention programme called “Be a Tree” to the primary students of Bermuda.

May 15 to 21 was deemed International Dog Bite Prevention Week and a challenge was sent out.

All the presenters were urged to speak to as many children as they could during the third week in May.

“Be a Tree” presenters educated over 34,000 kids in seven countries.

Those countries include Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Italy, Liberia, New Zealand and the United States.

The SPCA joined that challenge and four schools participated (Saltus, Bermuda High School, West Pembroke and East End Primary) reaching almost 500 students.

Students learned how to read a dog’s body language and how to act safely around dogs. The SPCA is scheduled to deliver this presentation to other schools from now until the end of the school year.

The SPCA hopes that this programme will become a regular addition to the primary schools’ life skills and citizenship programmes.

The three most important things to teach your kids

1. Dogs don’t like hugs and kisses.

Teach your kids not to hug or kiss a dog on the face. Hugging the family dog or face-to-face contact are common causes of bites to the face. Instead, teach kids to scratch the dog on the chest or the side of the neck.

2. Be a tree if a strange dog approaches.

Teach kids to stand still, like a tree. Trees are boring and the dog will eventually go away. This works for strange dogs and anytime the family dog gets too frisky or becomes aggressive.

3. Never tease a dog — never disturb a dog that’s sleeping, eating or protecting something.

The two most important things parents can do.

1. Supervise — don’t assume your dog is good with kids. 

If a toddler must interact with your dog, you should have your hands on the dog too. Even if your dog is great with kids and has never bitten — why take a chance?

2. Train the dog.

Take your dog to obedience classes where positive-reinforcement is used. Never pin, shake, choke, hold the dog down or roll the dog over to teach it a lesson.

Dogs treated this way are likely to turn their aggression on weaker family members.

Involve older children in training the family dog while supervising.

Don’t allow children to punish the dog.

Condition the dog to enjoy the presence and actions of children using positive experiences.

The three most important things dog owners can do

1. Spay or neuter your dog.

Neutered pets are calmer, healthier and less likely to be aggressive. Neutering prevents unwanted dogs that may end up in shelters or in less than ideal conditions where they may grow up to be poorly socialized or aggressive.

2. Condition your dog for the world.

Give your puppy lots of new positive experiences.  Train using positive methods, i.e. clicker training.

3. Supervise your dog.

Supervise your dog at all times around children. Do not allow children to hug and kiss the dog. If visiting children are bothering your dog, put the dog away or send the children home.