How Can I Teach My Children to Safely Approach Dogs?

Imagine you and your children are at the park.  They are enjoying running around on the jungle gym, playing and laughing.  What would happen if a loose dog were to run onto the playground?  Would your children run, screaming towards you?  Would they burst into tears?  Would they remain calm?  That could be a really scarey scenario and one I hope you and your family never have to encounter.

Let’s imagine your children are playing at a friends house and they just adopted a new puppy, who is super friendly but doesn’t have any manners yet.  Does your child know how to approach the new doggie?  How about what to do if the pup keeps jumping up on them?

These are both instances that can happen any day and teaching your children about dog body language and how to approach dogs doesn’t have to be a tough lesson to teach them.

As a dog trainers in Toms River, NJ we are often asked questions about how to teach children about dog safety.  That’s why we were very excited when one of our trainers, Kelly Keeney, found an awesome program that specifically teaches children about dog body language and what they should do around dogs.

Children to Safely Approach Dogs

Practicing Be A Tree

Here are some questions I asked Kelly about the program so we can all learn more about it:

What were you looking for when you found “Be Like a Tree”?

I was interested in finding a “beginner level” dog body language resource.  I feel that parents of younger children need help explaining to them how to behave around animals.  Also, something to help give children some understanding that dogs are beings in need of respect and space and that they are talking to us through their bodies.  If we listen with our eyes and our ears, we can hear what they are saying to us and this will keep kids safe!  As a company, we have such a focus on education, that I thought this would be an amazing way to integrate young children and (especially) new parents into the world of animal awareness, body language, and dog safety.

Who created Be Like a Tree?

The program originated in Canada, co-founders of Doggone Safe and the Doggone Crazy board game are Teresa Lewin and Joanne Orr. They spent over 5 years developing this program and went through reviews with professional groups of all kinds before offering it to the public.  Doggone Safe is the only dog bite prevention program to receive the support of several major professional associations.

Their mandate and mission statement is directly related to the coroner’s jury inquest recommendations in a tragic mauling case involving the death of an 8-year-old child in 1998.  They are focused on dog bite prevention, children’s safety around dogs and support for dog bite victims.

What is Be Like a Tree and what does it teach?

This presentation is an interactive seminar for children and their adults to learn the basics of dog body language, how to stay safe around dogs you know and dogs you don’t know. In addition, we also discuss what really is “good manners” when you are around dogs.

be a tree

What ages is it ideal for?

School-age children 6 years to 12 years.  We offer a shortened program for Pre-K children, this can be integrated with a “read to my therapy dog” meet and greet presentation on the same day if desired.

Personally, I also think that Senior citizen groups would LOVE this presentation because there were not many programs like this around in the past.  Some people love dogs but are intimidated because they don’t understand what they are trying to communicate,  this may enable a senior citizen to be comfortable volunteering at a shelter or just spending time in the park or with friends who have dogs.

Knowing how to be safe with a dog in simple clear terms is something that is very beneficial to all age groups and the parents usually learn a lot during the seminar.  However, starting a conversation about dog safety at a young age is the main focus of this program.

How long does the presentation take?

The full presentation lasts approximately 30-40 minutes.  15-20 minutes is teaching about body language and the tools we use for dog safety. The remaining 15-20 minutes is filled with interactive games, role-playing and fun application of these tools.

Can a dog be part of the presentation?

Due to licensing agreements with Dog Gone Safe, we cannot allow dogs at the Be a Tree Presentation.  Dogs tend to distract children (and adult dog lovers) from the learning process, so we find that more information is retained for future use if no dogs are present.

As a company, separate from the Be Like Tree Program, we offer other presentations where dogs are an integral part.  Therapy dog meet and greets, demonstrations of basic through advanced obedience, What’s a Responsible Pet Owner, etc.  These can be provided separately or on the same day as “Be a Tree” depending on the group needs and time available.

What type of children’s organizations would benefit from a presentation like this?

  • Schools, 4-H, Girls and Boy Scouts, Library groups, special needs education classes, community centers, summer recreation camps, daycare facilities.
  • The curriculum provided in this program is applicable to the Animals/Pets curriculum found in most elementary levels school systems.
  • 4-H animal care curriculum and Girl/Boy Scout Badges can be awarded in conjunction with the topics covered in this presentation.

How do I schedule a presentation?

If you live in Ocean or Monmouth Counties in NJ and are interested in scheduling a presentation with our company, please email  If you are not in NJ, please visit the Doggone Safe Website for a directory of presenters in your area.



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