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Tuesday 5 March 2019

Helping Children to be Safe around Dogs | HEY DOG | Book Review

We were recently sent a copy of the book Hey Dog! Let's Talk! by Wendy Keefer - an illustrated guide for children to help them understand dogs and learn to communicate with them in order to keep them safe.

I developed an intense fear of dogs as a child after my own dog passed away when I was 4, and I am very keen to make sure my own children don't pick up on this and react in a similar way. Likewise, it is important to be able to explain what IS appropriate and okay to avoid potentially dangerous situations without making them feel that every dog encounter is either dangerous or completely safe. It does, of course, depend on the dog and the situation - but I felt completely clueless as to how to go about teaching this! 

Within the past year, Arthur has started to become frightened of dogs himself - something that Charlotte is picking up on. This book has come along at the perfect time, enabling me to help Arthur to learn more about how to understand dogs and also giving me the tools to try and do the same as an adult....

Helping Children to be Safe around Dogs | HEY DOG | Book Review

  A few weeks ago we were having a coffee in the outside courtyard area of a pub when Arthur noticed a dog tied up in the corner. Being restrained, Arthur decided that he was brave enough to go and say hello because (in his words) "he can't get me if he's tied up". I asked Arthur not to stand too close and not to be too loud. Of course he was loud, he started singing and dancing and jumping around in an attempt to entertain the dog. The dog started to yawn and look away. Arthur took this as a signal that he wasn't being funny enough, and started to incorporate some words into his little performance like "poo" and "bottoms" - you get the idea!
Now, if we had already read this book, Hey Dog! Let's Talk! I would have been able to help Arthur to recognise that a dog who turns away and avoids eye contact may actually be a worried or a nervous dog.
I could have explained that unlike humans, a dog who yawns is not always telling us that he is bored or tired, but that he's not comfortable with the situation.

Not only would Arthur have been better equipped to pick out how the dog was feeling by watching the position and height of his tail, his ears and even his fur - he would have been able to make a positive attempt at saying hello to the dog himself.

What did we think of the book Hey Dog! Let's Talk!...?

I was initially worried that a book such as this could be a little onerous to sit and read with a 4 year old fidget, but he was so interested and engrossed we managed the entire book in one go. It is pitched perfectly, with just the right amount of information and images to hold a child's interest whilst also giving them the information.

I did, however, source a cuddly toy dog from our toy box who looks suspiciously like Hey Dog himself, so that Arthur could use him as a learning aid in conjunction with the book itself. 

If you have a real 'hands on' learner who struggles to concentrate without 'fiddling' (most young children by the way!) then I would highly recommend doing the same - your child can use their toy dog to act out scenarios and you can position the dog to mimic the body language discussed. Ours is just a little Alfie dog from Keel Toys, or you may like this alternative stuffed dog instead:

Don't forget to check out Christmas gifts for dog lovers too!

What can my child learn about dog safety from this book?

The book is set in 3 parts. 

Part 1 of Hey Dog explains:

  • What a frightened dog looks like
  • What an angry dog looks like
  • What a worried dog looks like
  • What a nervous dog looks like
  • What a scared dog looks like
  • What a happy dog looks like

This includes certain signs, signals and body language gestures from the dog in order to figure this out.

Part 2 of Hey Dog explains:

  • How dogs greet other dogs
  • How we can talk to a dog
  • How you should stand to greet a dog
  • How to calm an excited dog
  • How to let a dog know you are not happy

Part 3 of Hey Dog explains:

  • How to get a dog to trust you
  • giving a dog a choice
  • Understanding if a dog is old, sick or frightened
  • How to greet a stranger's dog
  • How to build trust with your own dog

 You can buy this book from Amazon here: Hey Dog! Let's Talk! and also in all good book shops!

Sarah x 

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