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This Trick Could Keep the Family Safe if a Dog Attacks

Dogs may be man’s best friend, but just like people, they have emotions. If they feel threatened, they may tell a human off in one of the few ways they can: biting. Alternatively, there are times when they can be really excitable and frisky, and they may jump on people or playfully nip. For a human child (or any human, really), this can be a terrifying—even dangerous—experience.

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That’s why the Be a Tree Program is so important to know about. Sponsored by Doggone Safe, the program aims to teach kids and adults to prevent bites and attacks by reading dogs’ body language and “becoming a tree” when threatened.

Here’s how it works. If you fear a dog will attack or jump up on you…

  1. Stand completely still with your arms at your sides.
  2. Bring your arms in and lace your fingers together. (“Fold in your branches”)
  3. Stare down at the ground (“Watch your roots grow”). Do not look at or make eye contact with the dog.
  4. Remain in that position until the dog leaves.

The result will look like this:

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If you do this, the dog should lose interest in you. This is because movement entrances dogs. To a playful pooch, running away means it’s time for a game of chase. But as Jan Orr, president and co-founder of Doggone Safe notes, “How many dogs have you ever seen chasing a tree?”

While being a tree is an effective technique, there are other important things to do and keep in mind to keep yourself safe.

  • Practice this with your kids. It’s easy to forget what to do in the heat of the moment, but practicing again and again will create muscle memory and turn it into second nature when it actually needs to be used.
  • Avoid putting yourself in a situation where you might need to become a tree in the first place. For example, do not
    • Tease a dog, especially if s/he is tied up or confined to something.
    • Approach a dog that’s showing signs of aggression: growling, standing stiffly, has his/her fur or tail raised, or is baring his/her teeth
    • Approach a dog you don’t know unless the owner gives you the OK or the dog initiates in a friendly way.

In doing these things, you can stay safe and keep your family safe, as well.

Do you know someone who’s scared of dogs? Be sure to share this information with them!

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A. Stout is a Whovian, Potterhead, study abroad alumna, and animal lover. A native to West Michigan, she dreams of publishing novels and traveling all over the world.