In vet school, one of the projects they had students work on was educating kids on dog safety. My best friend and I went out to an elementary school and had a great time teaching a few classes of kids about dog bite safety with my buddy, Homer.
The basics of the program are pretty simple: teach kids briefly about dog body language and what appropriate petting looks like (on the back/shoulder area). Remind them to ask before they pet someone’s dog and NEVER hug a dog around the neck (it’s rude!). Teach them to let an adult know if they see an off-leash dog coming toward them and if there isn’t an adult nearby, to “stand like a tree” or “be like a rock.”
Since being assigned to teach dog bite safety in class, I have kept at it casually and continue to come in and talk about it when teachers ask me to. Last week was the first week that I have done a Dog Safety class since my #1 sidekick (Homer) died. It was odd to be in a school without him and there is a completely different feel when you are working different dogs. When Homer came along, he was always in “working” mode and kept his eyes on me for direction. Although he was happy to do the classes, it was because we got to spend time together. Frankie is completely different and had a BLAST with the kids (due to their privacy we do not have any pictures of them). Frankie was (of course) extremely polite but you could tell she had a lot of fun interacting. She was happy but calm and unobtrusive.
One of the things I always make sure to be extremely conscious of while bringing a dog into an elementary school is that it can cause some very serious emotional reactions in children due to what they have been taught in their religion. I found this out the first time that Homer and I went into a classroom. There were a few Muslim kids that immediately broke out in scared tears. My understanding is that this is because dogs are considered unclean and it is said that angels will not enter your house if you have a dog inside it, and that dogs should be treated kindly but not touched. I always make it very clear that no one has to pet the dog if they do not want to and that is 100% okay and their choice. It is especially important to teach kids who are either scared, allergic, or whose religion prohibits them about dog safety because these are the kids that may go screaming and run away from stray dogs. As everyone knows, running away from a dog can encourage them to run with you (or chase you) and could potentially (rarely) set off predatory behavior.
Another thing I do to try and reduce the chances that people will be scared of Frankie is to dress her up in one of my favorite colors: you-can’t-be-scared-of-me-pink! It helps to put on a blinged-out collar and to make sure she has had a manicure. The kids (and adults) get so caught up exclaiming about how she is dressed that being scared often doesn’t even cross their minds.
It also pleases me greatly that a whole class of students (and their teachers and aides) get to have a fantastic positive experience with a dog that looks like Frankie (i.e. a pit bull mix). I don’t talk about dog breeds at all during the Dog Safety presentation but Frankie is a great ambassador for medium sized, short-haired, block-headed dogs!