Solon the seven-year-old border collie was the centre of attention at Moe Child Care and Kindergarten on Tuesday during a visit designed to teach children about canine safety.
The state government-funded Responsible Pet Education program teaches children strategies for approaching dogs and how to deal with aggressive and scared animals.
Trafalgar vet and pet educator Dr Kerrie Piper said the program had visited more than 2000 primary schools and kindergartens throughout Victoria since starting 12 years ago.
“Kids have a habit of doing everything in fast forward and so they rush up and they don’t think much about the situation,” Dr Piper said.
“Dogs take a lot on board and it’s so important kids stop, slow down and ask permission and approach a dog politely. It gives the dog a chance to work out what’s happening and who’s coming.”
The program is made up of 60 educators across the state who have visited more than 13,000 kindergartens and schools and educated almost two million students and 360,000 parents.
Dr Piper said it was important for dog owners to assess their pet’s behaviour around children.
“You can get easily distracted with the kids and wanting to please the kids and the parents by letting them pat the dog,” Dr Piper said.
“They need to look at the dog; is the dog enjoying the situation, how’s the dog managing the approach and busyness and the environment itself.
“If the dog is not managing it is OK to say ‘my dog is too busy to have a pat’, ‘my dog’s having a no pat day’ or ‘my dog is full of pats already’ and to leave a situation. You don’t have to let every kid have a pat.”
Visits also cover general welfare tips for animals, including feeding, exercise, training and health.
The program offers sessions to parents focusing on safety aspects of young children and the dog in the family home.
“Parents need to know when there are times when dogs need to be left alone. So such as when they’re eating or sleeping and that is so important for the family dog,” Dr Piper said.
“The most important thing parents can do is emphasise that to their kids. There are dog-only areas and there are times when you need to leave your dog alone.