I just saw my two off for their first day of school. Since I am a substitute teacher along with my dog work, I am happily sitting here in my flannel robe, cup of coffee, enjoying the quiet and of course catching up on blogging and writing. Soon the sub assignments will begin and things will be back to beloved chaos.
A few years ago, I watched a loose dog causing trouble at a local bus stop. I had just dropped my daughter off at school. Sadly, because of the location, I was unable to safely intervene without causing problems with traffic. Instead, all I could do was call dispatch for animal control.
Last school year, a neighborhood dog was allowed loose (the yard is not completely fenced) and he went after my son. This happened a couple of times. My son knew to stop, not make eye contact and slowly back away – across the street. He now has animal control dispatch/police programmed into his phone so he can make reports if it happens again.
For more information on how to be safe such as playing tree or turtle, please visit The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project.
I have witnessed concerning behaviors in dogs and children as parents walk Sparky to the bus stop with little Sally.
I have watched children in my neighborhood walk past yards and stop to torment dogs – even attempting to open gates!
I have watched loose dogs violently charge children as the children walked home from school. Neighbors were grabbing children off the streets while two of us were working to get the police and animal control out to get the dog. Sadly animal control was tied up across the county with a dog attack. The dog was later confiscated by animal control. Evidently there was a history between the former resident of the home and the police. (That is a story for another time but thank you local PD for cleaning that house out those years ago!!!)
Since I have The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project, I created a handout and began covering this topic every so often in the local papers. The handout can be found on the “printables” page at the link above. Here is one of the pieces that appeared locally – it has been expanded a bit since I have more space in a blog!
As children return to school we will be reminding them about safety: look both ways before crossing the street, sit on the bus, stranger danger, etc. However, how many of us include dog safety in our back to school lessons? Last school year I witnessed many potentially risky situations including visibly stressed dogs at bus stops, loose dogs annoying children walking to school, children teasing dogs as the children passed the dogs, etc. In the past, I have seen stressed dogs snap at children when dog owners forced them into child-dense areas and the dogs were very upset. I have seen owners of small dogs repeatedly ignore requests not to have the dogs on school property – even ignoring visible no dogs on property signs! This is why we must include dogs in out back to school safety lessons.
If you walk to school or to the bus stop
If you see a dog running loose, LEAVE THE DOG ALONE. If you approach the dog and the dog becomes scared, he may decide to stop you.
Stay quiet and calm. Loud voices and fast movements may excite the dog and encourage a chase.
If the dog comes near you, stand still like a tree and give yourself a hug. Be boring. Dogs tend to prefer interesting things.
If the dog jumps on you, drop to the ground like a turtle with your hands behind your neck. Call for help.
If you are near a crossing guard, ask the crossing guard to contact animal control. Crossing guards, please make the call if you are asked to. Even if not, if you see a loose dog, call animal control.
Do not tease dogs that are behind a fence or tethered. Your actions could develop undesired behaviors in the dogs. This could result in injury to someone or even the dog.
It is not funny to set someone’s pet free. If caught, you could be in trouble with the police.
Dog safety at bus stops
If there is a loose dog at the bus stop, ask the bus driver or a parent standing with the students to call animal control.
If a parent walks a dog to the bus stop, give the dog space. Even a friendly dog can knock you over. A scared or excited dog can bite.
Remain calm and quiet near the dog.
If you are a dog owner, leave Spot at home. You can walk him after the kids leave for school. If you MUST take him, keep his lead short and away from the horde of students. Extending leashes offer little safety and can injure a child if the dog happens to wrap it around his legs.
Never try to catch a loose dog – even one you recognize. It is too risky for children to do this.
Never approach a stranger and ask to pat a dog. Always have a grown up with you.
Never go with anyone who asks for help looking for a dog or who says he/she has a puppy to show you. If this happens, inform an adult as soon as you get to school or home.
Understand that animal control in many counties is lacking in officers able to respond and the hours worked. It is up to us to demand our leaders better staff and fund animal control for our safety.
Karen Peak is owner/operator of West Wind Dog Training in Prince William County, founder of The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project, a published author, wife, mother and the manager of a multi-dog, multi-species household.