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Beyond a Pets Theme: Teaching Young Children to Interact Safely with Dogs

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Although it is commonplace for early childhood educators to include a theme or unit on pets, opportunities to incorporate safety goals frequently are overlooked. Approximately 400,000 incidents of dog bites to children are documented in the United States annually and this estimate may be low, due to the fact that not all injuries are reported. Young children are the group at highest risk of sustaining dog bites. Due to the child’s smaller stature, these bites are more likely to be severe or disfiguring. Yet research from various disciplines supports that many of dog bite injuries to children are preventable with education and even brief interventions appear to be effective. This article offers research-based, developmentally appropriate strategies as well as a wide array of free or inexpensive resources that teachers can use to coach children in ways of interacting more safely with dogs. By making health and safety concerns a key component of themes or units about pets, teachers not only improve the curriculum but also make an important contribution to young children’s well-being.

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Correspondence to Mary Renck Jalongo.

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Jalongo, M.R. Beyond a Pets Theme: Teaching Young Children to Interact Safely with Dogs. Early Childhood Educ J 36, 39–45 (2008).

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