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Q: My grade school-aged kids are able to walk to school in our neighborhood, which is great, but I want to make sure they are safe if they run into a loose dog. What should they do?

A: That's a great question. Here's what to teach your children — and it's good advice for anyone.

  • Never approach a loose dog, even if it seems friendly. Dogs that are confined in yards, and especially those on chains, should also be avoided. Many are very serious about protecting their turf.
  • If a dog approaches, the best response is to "be a tree": Stand straight with feet together, fists under the neck and elbows into the chest to protect those vulnerable areas. Make no eye contact, since some dogs view that as a challenge.

Running is a normal response to danger, but it's the worst possible thing to do around a dog, because it triggers the animal's instinct to chase and bite. Many dogs will just sniff and leave. Teach your children to stay still until the animal walks away, then back away slowly out of the area.

  • Avoid fast or jerky movements around dogs, since these may trigger predatory behavior.
  • If a dog attacks, they should "feed" the dog a jacket or backpack or use a bike to block the dog.
  • Act like a log if knocked down: face down, legs together, curled into a ball with fists covering the back of the neck and forearms over the ears. This position protects vital areas and can keep an attack from turning fatal.
  • Role-play with your children how to approach dogs, when not to approach and what to do if confronted or attacked. You don't need to scare them, but you do need to make sure they're ready, just in case.

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