Students at Woodward Elementary School got a lesson about dog safety from a furry teacher Wednesday.
Steffen Baldwin, the founder and owner of Save Them Dog Training, spent the afternoon at Woodward Wednesday and gave students a lesson about dog safety with the help of one of his rescue dogs, Belle.
Baldwin started his presentation by talking about what the students should do if a dog they don’t know comes up to them without an owner.
Baldwin told they students that they should not approach the dog and should instead “turn into a tree” by putting their feet together, with their hands at their sides and let the dog sniff them. Baldwin advised the students not to stare into the dog’s eyes because if it is an aggressive dog it could take that as a challenge.
“Eye contact is confrontational for dogs,” Baldwin said.
He then detailed the signs of an aggressive and said aggressive dogs will bare their teeth and growl. Baldwin said a barking dog isn’t necessarily aggressive and told students to listen for a growl combined with a bark.
Another way to know is the dog’s tail, Baldwin said. Baldwin used Belle’s tail to show that horizontal or circular wagging is a good sign because it means the dog is interested but not aggressive. However, if the dog’s tail is straight up it means the dog is on edge and could be aggressive.
“Remember; tail wag versus tail flag,” Baldwin told the students.
If a dog is aggressive, Baldwin said students should go into their tornado drill poses and “turn into a rock” by curling up with their hands folded across their neck and their heads down to protect any area a dog could bite.
The student’s favorite part of the lecture was when Baldwin taught them how to approach a dog with their owner.
“You have to understand that just because a dog is adorable doesn’t mean it wants to be pet,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin said if you want to pet a stranger’s dog you have to ask for permission first and if the owner says yes you should offer the dog a balled-up hand for them to sniff and then gently rub the front of the dog’s chest for a few seconds.
“Pet them for five seconds and stop,” Baldwin said. “Pull your hand back and if the dog comes towards you you’ll know they want you to pet them.”
Additionally, Baldwin said students should also lower themselves to a dog’s level by kneeling because it will be less intimidating to smaller dogs.
Baldwin then gave the students a chance to practice petting Belle, who loved the attention and frequently rolled onto her back to get students to pet her stomach.
Baldwin said he has 16 special needs dogs at home and works as an animal cruelty investigator and has helped train several dogs for Woodward staff members.
More information about Baldwin and his organization can be found at http://www.savethemdogs.com/
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @Battishill.