LESSON IN SAFETY: Sarah Rutten, from Paw Power, gives Chelsea and Hannah Gorman, from Ballina, a lesson in approaching dogs safely at Ballina Fair last Friday.
LESSON IN SAFETY: Sarah Rutten, from Paw Power, gives Chelsea and Hannah Gorman, from Ballina, a lesson in approaching dogs safely at Ballina Fair last Friday.

Kids learn dog safety

LOCAL children were last week given a lesson in the right way to approach a dog.


Sarah Rutten, from Paw Power in Ballina, was at Ballina Fair last Friday as part of Pet Week at the shopping centre.


She said while it was ‘very healthy that kids and dogs play together’, it was important for kids to be educated on dog behaviours to avoid dog attacks.


From July to September last year, Ballina Shire Council had reports of nine people being attacked by dogs in the shire.


In New South Wales in the same period, 613 adults were attacked by dogs, and 196 children aged under 15.


“Kids can be inappropriate to dogs, and dogs can be inappropriate to children,” Ms Rutten said.


“I see a lot of people and families with dogs, and kids can do some really awful things to dogs.


“Dogs can be very tolerant of things children do.


“But they reach the point when they have had enough.”


She said the dog’s instinctive way of reacting to threats was to bark and bite.


Last Friday, she taught children the best way to approach a dog, particularly one that isn’t a family pet.


“If you see a dog that seems really friendly, then it’s important not to just go up to the dog,” she said.


“There are three things you have to do: ask your mum or dad, ask the owner and ask the dog.


“Let the dog smell the back of your hand and pat the dog on the chest or underneath the chin – it’s a really good habit to get into even with your own dog.


“A lot of dogs feel threatened when you go over the top of their head (with your hand).”


She said children also should be taught the body language of the dog so they can recognise when the dog is happy, or angry and fearful.


Ms Rutten’s advice is included in the SPOT program which she has taught at schools, and is backed by the Australian Veterinary Association, the RSPCA and the Delta Society.


The RSPCA website advises that the number of dog attacks can be reduced through education of dog owners on the importance of responsible pet ownership and appropriate socialisation and training of dogs, and the education of the public on understanding dog behaviour and the risks of dog bites.


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