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Taking the bite out of dog interaction

Helping children to correctly judge the mood dogs like "Isis" are in is the goal of a dog bite prevention program offered by Hudson Road Animal Hospital. Staff photo by Tom Carothers

Who doesn't love a dog? With floppy ears, sad eyes and a usually friendly disposition, it's no wonder they're nicknamed "man's best friend."

But people still need to be careful around them, because under that cute canine face can be a set of decidedly-sharp teeth.

The Hudson Road Animal Hospital is offering a free "Dog Bite Prevention Program," which gives tips and lessons about how to act around a dog to prevent getting bitten.

"Dogs are fun, they love to play, they're happy animals," Marcella Ward, practice manager at Hudson Road Animal Hospital, said. "But just like kids, they can get scared. Just like kids they can get mad, just like kids sometimes they don't want to play."

"The Dog Bite Prevention Program" was designed by the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association in cooperation with the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine.

Through the program, a veterinarian or technician would come to a school and educate children, kindergarten through grade six, about how to behave around dogs. They will use a Powerpoint presentation and various other skits and demonstrations.

The presentation lessons range from how to approach a dog, when not to approach a dog and what to do if an unknown dog comes running at them.

The program also educates students about basic body language since dogs are different than humans.

Ward said she feels that the "Dog Bite Prevention Program" is a beneficial program for children because, now that the weather is starting to warm up, they're going to be outdoors more often.

It is increasingly likely that they are going to cross paths with some dogs, but without knowing how to approach or behave around them, they are vulnerable to bites.

"Kids are definitely out more, they're out on their bikes, they're out on walks and if a dog comes near them, they have to know the right techniques to approach a dog or not approach a dog," she said.

The program also teaches about puppies and their tendency to bite while playing, and how to teach them otherwise.

"Dogs and puppies are very oral," Ward said. "They don't have hands like we do, so they can't feel with their hands. So they feel with their mouths."

Ward said she hopes that the schools will takethe initiative to bring this program to their students because it is a surefire way to educate kids about dogs and how to act around them.

"Dogs are different from us," Ward said. "Kids just want to hug and be around a dog; but dogs get tired, too. They will give us a warning usually, but kids don't always recognize those warnings."

For more information or to sign up for the Hudson Road Animal Hospital's "Dog Bite Prevention Program," call Marcella Ward at (651) 3739-0117 or e-mail

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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