Recent weeks have been a stark reminder to West Australians about how rapidly the COVID-19 situation can change, turning life as we know it upside down. It seems our canine companions are also feeling the effects of this upheaval with an increase in reports of unfriendly encounters and a rise in reported dog bites during the pandemic. There’s never been a better time to refresh your kids on how to safely interact with dogs. Here are some top tips on how to have kids meet dogs safely while out and about: Always ask permission from your parent or guardian.Ask the dog’s owner if it’s OK for you to meet their dog. Stand side-on to the dog, put your hands by your side and allow the dog to sniff you and decide if it’s happy to say hello. If the dog is happy to meet you, gently pat it on its chest. This is so the dog can see where your hand is. If the dog tries to pull away from you, let it — it’s telling you it has had enough pats. If kids encounter an unknown dog while alone – teach them to “be a tree”. They should stand still, lift their arms across their chest, tuck their chin in, stay quiet and still, avoid staring, and act bored. The dog will likely sniff them, then move on. Children should never run away from a strange dog — the dog may think this is a game. While at home, a great first step to keeping kids and pets happy and safe is to create an area where your dog can retreat to and have a break if they are getting overwhelmed, such as a crate. Many dog bites in young children occur if the dog is resource-guarding, so teach children when dogs are eating, sleeping, or in a crate, they should be left alone. It is important always to supervise your child when they are with a dog, and look for signs that the dog might be feeling uncomfortable such as yawning, lip-licking or avoiding eye contact. If you see these signs, it’s time to take a break. Never punish your dog when they growl, as this is intended as a warning. If it is suppressed due to punishment, then no warning may be given next time. An enjoyable aspect of my role as an inspector is going into schools to help educate the community on animal welfare. We know this is a powerful way to change attitudes and behaviours. Recently, I attended a daycare centre and brought along a helper, Finn, to show the kids how to approach and safely interact with an unknown dog. This tactile approach worked really well and I’d encourage pet owners to practice with their own dog, or demonstrate on a teddy.