Top tips to teach your dog how to behave
Taylor Wheeler is on a global mission to help teach children how to safely interact with dogs in an effort to kerb the number of animals being surrendered or dumped.
In 2014, Ms Wheeler started Pink Paws, a not-for-profit that provides both free training for problem pooches as well as the Kids and K9s program, which has travelled around to dozens of schools in Australia, Indonesia and Fiji to show children how to best approach a dog.
"Too often kids are getting bitten by dogs, mainly because they have rushed up too quickly and not thought about the signs the dog is giving. We teach kids not to pat the dogs on the heads because when dogs can't see your hands they can get frightened. It is also important to ask the dog's owner and your own parent before patting a dog," she said. "We always do a quiz at the end of. The training and we are always so surprised and grateful with how many kids have learnt the steps. Teachers and parents have given us great feedback saying their kids continue to do the steps every time they meet a new dog."
The Kids and K9s program led Ms Wheeler overseas, initially to Indonesia, where she worked with local organisations to educate dog owners. She also paid to have street dogs desexed.
"In Indonesia they don't see dogs as companion pets like we do so that was a bit of an additional challenge," she said. "What we learnt though was if I would take a dog from a rescue and show the school kids how to teach them to high five, shake, sit down, then they start seeing them as an intelligent animal, not just an animal that roams around the streets."
Ms Wheeler, 26, has also written and published a children's book called Meg's Doggie Adventures: Keeping Safe Around Our Furry Friends, which is set to be translated into Indonesian and Mandarin.
"Our children's book is about a girl named Meg who teaches kids dog safety," Ms Wheeler said. "So it is a bedtime story but with an educational component. Some councils have started buying the book for their libraries and we are hoping we can get all schools and councils on board."
Pink Paws will also train your dog for free if it is exhibiting behavioural issues. Ms Wheeler says there are no "lost causes" and too many dogs are being dumped, surrendered or euthanised unnecessarily.
"We now have a 24-hour support line and a Dog Training Lifestyle app which will help give you answers when you need them," she said.
Belmont North resident Katie Halsey, 34, says she was told by a dog trainer that she needed to rehome her family's 12-week-old Great Dane mix, Bambi, because she was being overly aggressive.
"She was showing signs of food aggression and she wasn't tolerating my kids that much so this trainer suggested that I rehome her, which left us all devastated."
Ms Halsey says she looked around for another trainer and found Pink Paws on the internet.
"Bambi is doing amazing now. She has had a couple of sessions with Taylor and already she is tolerating the kids better, we have no issues with her and food anymore," she said.
Ms Halsey says she liked the way that Pink Paws incorporated her children, Willow, six, and Jax, four, into the training.
"Initially she would show me what I needed to do but now she is even letting Willow do some training with Bambi so Bambi knows she isn't above the kids in the pecking order of the house," Ms Halsey said. "The previous trainer's advice was to put Bambi behind a gate and not let her near the children. However, Taylor wanted her to get used to people being around her. This made sense to me because obviously it would be almost impossible to get a puppy and expect the kids to stay away."
"I am so happy we didn't give up on Bambi when I was told that we should," she said.
Ms Wheeler says her best tip when bringing a dog into a family is to think long term.
"We often work with older people who adopt a big dog because they have had that breed their whole lives but they may have since had knee or shoulder surgery and can't actually handle a big dog anymore," she said. "It is harder to control big dogs so if you are a smaller build or if you have something like a shoulder injury maybe you should think about adopting a smaller dog."
TIPS FOR MEETING AND APPROACHING A NEW DOG:
1. Always ask a responsible adult and the owner of the dog if you are allowed to approach the dog before doing so.
2. If an unfamiliar dog approaches your child, teach your child to stand still, with their arms by their sides and their hands closed into fists.
3. Do not allow children to scream, yell or run up to a dog.
4. If given permission to pat a dog always teach kids to slowly place one hand out with palm and fingers facing the ground and allow the dog to sniff their hand.
5. If the dog looks at all uneasy or frightened, immediately remove children from the dog.
6. Never trust a wagging tail. Dogs may wag their tail slowly if they are threatened or uncomfortable
7. If a dog is submissive, scared or dominant do not approach and walk away slowly.
8. Never approach a dog from behind.
9. Do not pat a dog straight over the top of their head. Preferably pat near the shoulder blade