Through my years of participating in AKC events, I have had the opportunity to participate in junior showmanship and breed classes, obedience, agility, field events, and educational programs. I have designed an educational program for elementary aged children that I would like to share with everyone else. This is the story of how I began “Safety Tips from Wesley and Friends.”
If you have ever been to a dog event, I am sure this situation will sound all too familiar. I have found it fairly common to see a small child run up to a stranger’s dog, and without asking for permission, either embracing it in a hug or petting it. Although most dogs at dog events are kind and easy going, this has potential to turn into a dangerous situation. This is the reason I developed my safety program for my community.
After researching dog bites, I developed a list of safety tips such as:
1. Always ask before
petting a stranger’s dog.
With these tips, I created a program that interacted with the children and a coloring book that they could take home to their parents and use to reinforce what I taught them.
When I enter classrooms with my dog, most of the children get overly excited whereas others are slightly frightened by the size of my German Wirehaired Pointer. After calming the children down, I am able to begin my program. The program lasts, at the most, 30 minutes and allows time for everyone to get a chance to come up and pet my dog.
As I leave, the children are always wildly busy coloring in their coloring books. You can see how happy they were to have a visitor and how excited they were to learn and have fun. As I walk my dog in the yearly Christmas parade, I get stopped by these same children that I had the opportunity to talk to. I always hear, “That dog came to my class. Can I pet him?” Knowing that I have taught them something makes all the work that I put into my program worthwhile.
In writing this article about my safety program experience, I would like to encourage everyone else to try to do the same in your community. Seeing the children smile will make you see why you have chosen to do this. Not only are you reaching children in your community, but you could also be saving the life of a loved family pet that simply made a mistake. A dog cannot be blamed for being startled.