My son Pierce is 17 years old, and my daughter, Élan is 12 years old. We also have three huskies, 'Sionnaich', 'Taiga' and 'Chewie', a german shepherd named 'LB' and one cat, 'Pasha'. Just because I have worked with all kinds of animals for over 30 years doesn't mean my children have any special protection from dogs or other animals. The only thing I can do is teach them respect, not fear, and to teach them prevention. No matter how hard I try, or how much I'd like it to happen, neither my wife nor I can be with them all the time.

  1. Be calm, gentle and as quiet as you can around dogs. They get tired, cranky, and excited just like you do. Because a dog can't speak to you and let you know these things, you need to try and watch for signs that let you know when the dog is becoming too scared or excited.

  2. Try and get to know the dogs in your area. Do not try and pet a strange dog, even if he/she is with the owner and the owner says it's ok. Sometimes even a dog owner doesn't always know how their dog will behave around children.

  3. Never approach a dog that is tied up, or that is in a small space. Although you don't mean to, this can frighten the dog, or cause him/her to try and protect their space the same way you might not want to share your favourite play space with another child.

  4. Dogs also have favourite toys, just like you do. This may be an old blanket, a rubber toy, a ball, or a chewbone. The dog will not want to share this with you, and you should never try to approach a dog when he/she has it in their mouth or near them.

  5. Imagine eating your favourite chocolate bar or ice cream cone, and having another child come along and even think about taking it away from you. Dogs are just the same. If a dog is eating, then you should not approach him/her because they might think you're trying to eat their dog food, even though you and I both know that it's just too yucky to even think about.

  6. Even if you're eating your favourite snack or treat, if a dog tries to grab it, throw it so it falls behind him/her. In their excitement to get your snack or treat, not every dog has good manners. Whatever you do, don't try and stop the dog from taking your snack or your treat, because the dog may try and jump up and take it from you. Don't worry; your parents will get you another one.

  7. You know how upset or angry you become when other children tease you by calling you names or pushing you. Dogs feel the same way, so please, don't ever tease a dog with food, or a toy or a stick or anything else.

  8. When you approach a dog, even your own dog, don't pet him or her without letting them see and smell your closed hand first (don't let your fingers stick out). This way you don't surprise or scare your dog or another dog. Remember dogs don't see as well as people do, and they really depend on their sense of smell and hearing.

  9. You know what it feels like when your parents and relatives rub the hair on the top of your head and tell you how big you've grown. You kind of like it, but it also kind of bothers you at the same time. Dogs feel just the same way. When you pet a dog, at first try scratching under his chin and even gently rubbing his chest. If this is ok with him/her then you can try gently scratching behind their ears or the top of their head.

  10. Never rub a dog along his/her side or grab their tail, because believe it or not, when one dog tries to scare or pick a fight with another dog, this where the trouble first starts.

  11. Dogs like to take naps a lot, just like you. So if your dog, or someone else is sleeping, remember that he/she may be having a bad dream and if you wake them up too suddenly, you may scare them without meaning to.

  12. You know how your mother and father try to make sure that no one hurts you. Mother dogs are the same with their puppies. Wait for one of the puppies to come over to you, and keep an eye on the mother to make sure its ok with her. Only do this if your parents are with you and they say it's ok.

  13. Have you ever been in a staring contest with someone? That's when you stare into another person's eyes to see who blinks their eyes or looks away first. Try it.

    It feels kind of weird or uncomfortable, doesn't it? Dogs are just like us. If you stare into a dog's eyes, this is the way another dog would pick a fight or even scare another dog. Even though you don't mean to, you will confuse your dog and he/she may be scared or think you are trying to pick a fight. Some children also hold onto the dog's head while they are staring into his/her eyes, and the dog can feel trapped or frightened.

  14. You know what it feels like when kids play too rough with you by pushing or shoving? Did you know that when a dog jumps up on your leg, that this is the way dogs play rough? Even though it seems like fun, this is where the trouble first starts because you are actually telling the dog that it's ok for him/her to play rough with you.

  15. This next one is really tough. You need to know that while most dogs will never bite you, there are some that will. I hope you never meet one of them, but if you do and your parents, or older brother or sister or an adult is nearby, call for help. If they are not around, or too far away, then it's going to be up to you to try and help yourself.

  16. You will be scared, but try to be as brave as you can.

  17. If you have a bicycle, a jacket, a wagon, a tree branch, or anything else lying around, try and put it between you and the dog.

  18. If you have some food, something in your pocket, or can pick up a stick, or a ball, or even a stone, throw it as far away as you can behind the dog: the dog may run after it.

  19. If you think the dog is going to bite you, try your hardest not to scream or run away, because this will only show the dog that you are afraid and will cause the dog to bite you.

  20. Never turn your back on a dog and try to run away, because the dog will always run faster than you, and you won't be able to keep your eyes on the dog.

  21. Instead, back away slowly, and talk quietly to the dog, telling him what a good dog he/she is.

  22. If you can, try and walk slowly into a yard, or up onto someone's porch, or someplace safe where the dog can't get at you.

  23. If the dog does attack, you will have to decide to do one of two things:

    • Some people say that the best thing to do is to lie down on the ground, and curl up into a ball, making a fist with your hands and covering your neck. Sometimes the dog will still bark and may still bite you, but eventually the dog will lose interest and will go away.

    • Other people say the best thing to do is to pick up something and throw it at the dog as hard as you can, and kick and fight and scream to try and scare the dog into running away and leaving you alone.

    • You will have to make a choice very quickly, and no one can be sure which is the right one.

  24. You may be tired of hearing it, but it is true that practice makes perfect. Work with your parents and friends and learn how to respect our four-legged friends and how to protect yourself at the same time.

  25. Watch for early warning signs that a dog may be getting ready to bite. The dog may growl or bark. Someone may have told you that if a dog wags his/her tail they will never bite, and that is wrong. Sometimes when a dog is getting ready to bite, he will also wag his tail because he is very nervous or angry.

  26. You know how sometimes you fight with your best friend, or with another child you don't know very well? Once in a while, dogs do the same thing. If two dogs are fighting, even if one of them is your dog, never try and stop them. Because dogs will be so excited, they will bite you by mistake. It may look like they are really hurting each other, but there is nothing you can do except call one of your parents or an adult and let them break up the fight.

  27. Sometimes two dogs may become stuck together. Never try and separate them, because you might hurt the dogs or be bitten by one of them. Instead call an adult and ask them to help.

  28. It's great that your parents want you to help out around the house by walking your dog. However, if your dog is too big for you to handle, even on a leash, then don't be afraid to ask your parents to come with you.

  29. Remember that most dogs never bite anyone, but it is always better to be prepared.

Why don't you have your parents read the other sections with you - the ones dealing with TIPS FOR DOG OWNERS and TIPS FOR PARENTS.