- Understand the body language of dogs.
- Know when it is safe to approach a dog.
- Learn how to safely greet a dog.
- Learn appropriate behaviour when approached by a dog.
Every year many children are bitten by dogs, usually by a family pet or a neighbour’s dog. Almost all of these bites are preventable if children are taught how to behave around dogs.
Curriculum Connection: Alberta Education Program of Studies
Health and Life Skills
Wellness choices - Safety and Responsibility
- Identify unsafe situations, and identify safety rules for protection.
- Describe and apply communication safety behaviours at home.
- Describe and apply appropriate street safety behaviours in the community.
- Describe, apply and analyze appropriate safety behaviours in the local community.
See end of lesson for activities for other K-2 curriculum areas: ELA, Art, Drama, Social Studies.
You could start by asking your class if anyone has been bitten by a dog. Ask one or two to share their experience. Then ask your students why they think dogs bite. Some of the reasons include:
- they get too excited while playing and do it accidentally
- they become protective over their dishes or toys
- they want to protect their home and their owner from strangers
- mother dogs want to protect their babies
- they are in pain because they are sick or injured
- they are nervous because they are old and don’t see or hear well
- they are frightened
- they haven’t been well socialized by their owners
Explain that most dogs are friendly and won’t bite, but it’s important to learn some safety rules when playing with dogs to avoid being bitten.
Teaching about Dog Body Language
Dogs can’t talk, so we need to learn to observe their body language. Children will avoid bites if they can learn the warning signals dogs try to give us. Included in this lesson are a number of visual teaching aids to show the difference between relaxed dogs and stressed or angry dogs. These are reproduced with permission from Doggone Safe, a non-profit organization which has a wonderful website full of downloadable teaching materials on bite prevention.
Visual teaching aids:
Doggone safe has also produced an excellent “Speak dog” video (Quicktime or Windows WMV ) – a three minute slide show illustrating the different ways dogs communicate with their bodies. There are pictures of many dogs showing contrasting emotions. It ends with a short movie clip warning about tethered dogs and showing how to deal with a group of dogs. Warn students that this might look scary when the dog runs and barks.
After looking at these pictures and video together, you could use the Operation Outreach USA lesson plan in which students look at pictures and decide if it is safe or not to pet the dog. Pictures can be photocopied for colouring.
The Humane Society of the US colouring page has little boxes for students to write S or U beside situations that are safe or unsafe.
The American Veterinary Association exercise has students write yes or no beside different pictures to say if they are safe or not.
Safety Rules around Dogs
The Kids and K9 Safety Tips and Activities provides a good transition from observing dog body language to defining safety rules. It includes a matching exercise on dog body language and a true and false of what is safe behaviour. For younger students, this can act as a discussion guide for teachers.
To keep the rules simple use the Doggone Safe “Be a Tree” approach and teach just two rules:
- dogs do not like hugs and kisses
- be a tree if a strange dog approaches (See the Be a Tree picture)
There is a colouring page to follow-up on the rules discussion.
Role Play Ideas from Best Friends
Several role play ideas have been reproduced with permission from the Best Friends Animal Society. Students role-play different situations involving meeting or handling animals. There is a follow-up true-false quiz included.
Doggone Safe Lesson Plan Ideas
Doggone Safe also has interactive on-line games for kids and a story narrated by Diggity Dog.
Finally, for other curriculum areas, Doggone Safe has identified a number of classroom activities:
Kindergarten-Grade 1 - Visual and Dramatic Arts
- Cut pictures of dogs out of magazines – make a collage.
- Draw a picture to show something learned about dog safety.
- Make a class mural with a dog theme.
- Act out a scene involving a dog.
- Charades – act like a dog and others guess what dog is trying to communicate.
- Make floppy ear dog head bands and have a doggie parade.
- Present a song and dance while wearing floppy ear head bands.
- Doggie races on all fours while wearing floppy ear head bands.
Kindergarten-Grade 1 - English Language Arts
- Show and tell with picture of dog or stuffed animal – talk about what dog is feeling.
- Guess what the dog is saying game – look at pictures of dogs and talk about what the dog might be saying.
- Match letters with the first sound of the word that describes the way a dog is feeling in a picture.
Kindergarten-Grade 1 - Social Studies
- Have “Pennies for Puppies” Day – decorate cans and collect pennies to donate to the local animal shelter.
- Class trip to the vet, pet store, shelter or dog groomer.