As a child I always wanted a dog but we were a cat family. End of chat. That didn’t stop me loving on other people’s dogs though! I grew up in the 80s on a council estate and there always seemed to be dogs roaming around. Most of them we familiar with and knew were friendly but we came across more than a few strays dogs in our time. Our gang, we thought we were like the famous five or something. Always off on adventures, the only rules were don’t get in trouble and be home before dark. We’ve ‘adopted’ random animals much to our parents despair! It never entered out heads how to behave around dogs. Mostly they just followed us around and we fed them biscuits. Patch was our resident roaming dog. She had a home but we were her people. Things were different then, people just seemed to let their dogs loose like cats.
One summer holiday day we were off on our daily adventure with the latest stray in tow. I can’t remember exactly what happened but there were a lot of us making a noise and jumping around. Suddenly for no reason that we understood the dog nipped my friend on the foot. It wasn’t a deep bite and we never knew at the time why he did it. On reflection, we probably scared him with our antics.
As a much older girl, probably aged 15ish I too nearly got bitten by a dog. Completely my fault I later realised. A friends dog who was I was quite familiar with was tied up outside the spar. Now I had fussed this dog many times in her house and he was friendly. However this day the dog was tied up and I went to put my arms around him and basically cornered him. He went to bite me and luckily I had a baggy jumper on so he got the jumper and not me. Now on reflection I can see what I did wrong but at the time I didn’t understand why the dog had turned on me.
As an adult I have had 2 dogs. My first George (the georgemeister) was a GSD. We had him from the rescue centre as a puppy. I took him to socialisation classes and read up on dog behaviour and followed various television programmes that were on at the time.
My second dog was also a rescue. Dexter. He was an older young dog. Around 1 to 1 1/2. His history was unclear but he did have a few minor issues from probably being mistreated by his last home. He chose me! You don’t get the dog you want but the dog you need! A little rascal he was and still is. I took him to behaviour classes which was fantastic for him (and me!). I learned lots and lots from attending the classes. I went up until I was getting too pregnant to do a lot of the training.
I learned so much from having these dogs and realised how little I knew about behaving around dogs when I was a child. You hear things in the news about dogs biting children and the dog always has the blame but I wondered how many of those bites may have been avoided. Please don’t get me wrong I am not trying to blame the children/parents but from my own experiences with 2 dogs often adults don’t know how to behave around dogs. I was determined that my children would know how to act respectfully around dogs and make sure they give them space and to look out for signs that a dog may be feeling stressed. There have been so many times children have petted my dog on a walk (who is as docile as they come) as their parents have looked on and I have had to tell the children they should always ask the owner before approaching and petting a strange dog. It has earned me some funny looks over the years.
So what do I wish I had known about dogs when I was a child? I wish I had known that dogs need space especially if there is a gang of you. That even familiar dogs can feel stressed in unfamiliar situations. Also to always check with the dogs owner before petting them.
I was pleased to discover recently that the Zara DogDog Club has written a book (which is one of a series) that tells an easy to follow story that looks at the different lessons that help children to act appropriately around dogs. It discusses broad lessons to explore how dogs may be feeling in a given situation. The books are aimed at children aged 3-6 years and should be read together with you so that you can chat about any questions they may have.
I was thrilled to be sent a copy of the book Zara DogDog on the School Run and was excited to read it together with my 6 year old. He loved it. Each page was beautifully illustrated and with different lessons explaining how Zara DogDog may be feeling and what her reaction to certain experiences may be. His favourite part was when Zara liked going on the school run at the end of the book and that the boy in the story was also called Isaac! He completely understood the lessons in the book as it was easy to follow with lovely illustration. I was also so pleased with such a fantastic book covering this important topic. I particularly liked that it had some rules at the end to follow. In fact I will be recommending it to other parents.
You can find Zara DogDog here on Instagram and see the real Zara dog. She is gorgeous.
And you if you want to join the Zara DogDog club for their newsletter and regular updates around dog welfare and responsible ownership you can sign up here
Remember to teach your children some boundaries around dogs and keep those happy tails wagging.
Love and peace xx