It’s fine and very sweet for kids to engage with new dogs, as long as they do so appropriately (Rule No. 1: Approach the owner first), but there may be times when a dog greets them with too much affection or even aggression. Doggone Safe, an organisation focused on dog bite prevention, teaches kids to “be a tree” if an unknown dog comes near them. Why? Trees are boring to dogs.
Here’s how it works. When the dog comes near, the child should:
- Fold their “branches” (hands) in front of them.
- Watch their “roots” grow (look at their feet).
- Count their breaths in their head until help arrives, or the dog walks away.
Here’s what it looks like in action:
When teaching kids how to be a tree, it’s important to have them practise in a low-stress environment, with a stuffed animal or their real pet.
ASPCA has other advice for reducing the risk of dog bites, stressing that understanding dog body language is key.