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Program to prevent dog attacks hits the Hunter

An education program for small children is being rolled out across the Hunter in a bid to prevent dog attacks.
Nanjing Night Net

Pet educator Vicki Collins and her four-legged assistant Mr President, who is affectionately known as Linc, are at the forefront of the visual and music session that teaches children to observe a dog’s body language and act accordingly.

It comes after a spate of dog attacksacross the Hunterin recent months, where children and adults have been attacked.

The most horrific incident occurredin August when eight-year-oldThalia Standleylost her right hand after she leaned against a retaining wall in Valentine and placed her hand near a gap in a fence.

AnAlaskan Malamute stuck its head through the small gap,grabbed onto her and pulled her hand and arm under the fence.

Ms Collins said children up to the age of nine were most at riskand learning to give a dog its space in certain situations would help to reduce attacks.

Statistics show most children are bitten by their own dog, or a dog that is known to them, while they were playing, patting or feeding them, she said.

The program teaches children to leave a dog alone if it is nervous, frightened, angry or aggressive.

It also tells them to stay away from a dogwhen it is eating,in the backyard, sleeping, in its kennel, sick or injured, at a party, and not with its owner.

Ms Collins said parents need to provide active supervision whenever their child is near a dog.

“Childrenshould not hug a dog around the neck, play aggressive games with it, star into the dogs eyes, hurt it, pat it on the head or corner it so it cannot escape,” she said.

“In Victoria they’ve had great success with this program in reducing the number of incidents.

“It hasn’t been in NSW very long, but it will definitely help as we get the message out there.

“We run programs for preschool parents too, but there aren’t many who want to be involved.”

Children at Clarence Town preschool were confident around Lic once Ms Collins had taught them how to assess the dog’sbehaviour.

“They need to know what they should and shouldn’t do andthey need to learn about this from a young age – if we don’t teach them they won’t know how to read the dog,” preschool director Rebecca Bolandsaid.

Lic has been educating children for three years and eagerly waits for the part of the program when they taketurns atpatting him.

He has two canine friends at home who also participate in the program.

“When I put my uniform on of a morning the three of them want to come with me, they love it, they want to get pats,” Ms Collins said.

Ms Collins said children often wanted to rush up to a dog and pat it.

She said they needed to stop and give the dog and its owner enough space, while they asked if they could give it a pat.

“One of the biggest things you can teach a child is to always ask the owner if they can pat the dog,” she said.

“Children might encounter a service dogand they can’t be patted even though they’ve got a great temperament, so it’s very important they learn to stop and ask.”

If the owner consents the child should hold their hand in a fist and let the dog smell the back of their hand, before stepping to the side of the dog and stroking it gently from the collar to the tail.

“We’ve found the program also helps children who are nervous around dogs,” Ms Collins said.

“Once we’ve gone through the course they are confident because they know what to look for.”

The NSW Office of Local Government is rolling out the Living Safely with Dogs program in preschools across NSW. It also has a program forkindergarten, Year 1 and Year 2 students.

Ms Collins said the repetition of the information, along with more detailed informationabout how to look after a dog, would help reinforce the message in the child’s mind.

Clarence Town preschooler Scarlet Fitzpatrick pats Linc the dog as part of the Living Safely with Dogs program that aims to reduce dog attacks.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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