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Winston Armani, KSL

Teaching kids how to safely approach unfamiliar dogs

By Tania Dean, KSL TV | Posted - Mar. 5, 2019 at 6:43 a.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY — Statistics show about 1,000 people require emergency care for serious dog-bite injuries every day across the U.S. Sunday’s tragic incident involving a 4-year-old boy is a reminder that it happens in Utah as well.

There were 1,105 dog bites in Salt Lake County in 2017. In 2018 there were 803. So far in 2019, there have been 59 dog bites in the county — and those are just the ones reported.

Kiera Packer is with Salt Lake County Animal Services and teaches kids about how to interact with unfamiliar dogs.

“I do see a lot of kids getting bit due to improperly handling, or maybe not knowing how to handle a pet,” said Packer.

One of the first things kids should know is the dog should always have a collar, a leash and an owner with it.

“If they don’t have those three things, you probably shouldn’t be approaching them,” Packer said.

Then, ask the owner if you can pet the dog, but have the dog smell your fist first, not your open hand. Packer says that way the dog doesn’t think you’re offering it a treat.

When it comes time to pet the dog, touch its side rather than its head.

“When I ask to pet the dog, I’m not going to tap him on the head or be over the top of him. That’s really quite scary to dogs,” said Packer, demonstrating the approach. “I’m actually just going to pet him right here on the side. That’s very non-threatening. I’m not over the top of his head. I’m not doing anything where he doesn’t see where my hands are at.”

Animal control officers also said dogs like to guard their territory, so teach your kids to stay away from their “space.”

“Teach them not to enter yards that they don’t know, not to bend over fences or put (their) hand through fences of dogs that you don’t know,” said Packer.

She also says if you’re approached by a dog, don’t run because it will likely chase you. Instead, tell your kids to stand their ground and call for help loudly so a grown-up can hear.

These lessons won’t stop every dog bite, but they could potentially save your child from becoming a victim of serious injury.

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Tania Dean


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