Dog Bite Prevention week is here!
Let’s all get more informed about safety and dogs in our homes and communities!
Ever go into a home with a really happy enthusiastic greeter? A dog that just wants to LOVE you all over and with full body contact? If so then YOU will benefit from this article! BE A TREE is a great way to calm dogs down as it disengages you from the dog. Often when dogs jump or get enthusiastic we are tempted to push, move or even sometimes play with them believing it might in some way stop or settle them. The truth is that this only gets them more excited.
I love teaching children at a VERY young age how to BE A TREE. With our own kids we began at 2 ½ and just anytime our own dogs got too ramped up or close we would BE A TREE. Practicing this at home with familiar and friendly dogs made it comfortable and soon the kids were well conditioned that when any excitable dog approached they would BE A TREE.
Why is it important to teach BE A TREE?
Well, the natural response for most children to a dog that is coming towards them is to run or move back. This motion actually is an invite for the dog to keep coming. Think about how we teach a dog recall. Often we back up and call the dog to us. Dogs love to chase by nature and we want our kids to learn how to be boring vs. exciting.
- I love that Doggone Safe BE A TREE pose has the children fold their branches (arms) at the most natural point without moving them upwards. Folding their hands at the belt buckle spot is perfect. Other poses I have seen encourage the kids to move hands upwards across the chest or under the armpits. We want to minimize any motion a small child does. Many excited dogs will jump up at the slightest motion upwards so having the kids keep hands low is great.
- I also love that we do not tell the kids to “freeze” We really encourage them to relax and count their breaths. In the moment when a child is concerned about something we want to provide them with something to do. They can count breaths or count silently in their head as high as they know until an adult or help comes to remove the dog.
- “Watch your roots grow.” We say this, as we want kids to use their imagination a bit and think of themselves as steady strong trees. Planting their feet and watching their roots grow deep into the ground allows for strength and gives a good visual of what to do. I have seen other programs suggest looking straight ahead or upwards and I really prefer the watching roots grow. If a child is fearful it becomes hard to not look at the dog if they are looking up or ahead. Looking down is a cut off from eye contact.
- I tell kids to expect the dog to come and sniff them. This is normal and that if they just keep counting their breaths and keep their roots solidly planted they will remain boring and most likely the dog will just walk off. I ask them “have you ever seen a dog chase a tree?” They laugh…no. What do dogs chase? They offer balls, cats, squirrels etc. We talk about how all of those move increasing the natural chase response.
Kids can learn this very early on and I HIGHLY recommend parents begin young. 2 ½ to 3 is a great age to practice this safety exercise. The more you do it the more likely your child will automatically become a tree should ever there is a loose dog at the park, schoolyard etc.