New Zealand is a nation of dog lovers, with well over 500,000 doggie companions living in homes throughout the country. For many of us dogs are an integral part of our family and we couldn’t imagine our lives without them. For others, especially children, dogs can be very scary.
Dog bite incidents are more common than we would like to admit. ACC’s dog bite statistics for children under the age of 12 years old are alarmingly high. The good news is that there are measures we can put in place to drastically reduce these statistics, and it starts with education. Knowing how to behave safely around dogs and identifing any warning signs can be the difference between a good outcome and a bad one.
BARK NZ is a self-funded, not-for-profit organization which aspires to empower children through animal assisted education so that they can feel confident and safe around dogs. This is achieved through experience with real dogs and offering useful tools and techniques to prevent unnecessary dog-related injuries. Participation is encouraged in lessons, as well as a specific focus on thinking, use of language, symbols, relating to others and self-management. The lessons are relevant to parents as well and can be invaluable when it comes to introducing a new dog into a family with young children. Each new dog your child meets will behave differently which means every different dog will be a new learning experience.
BARK NZ has more than 30 volunteers across the North Island. The team includes a number of certified dogs who are affectionately known as “BARK Buddies”. They help to provide specifically designed lessons that integrate in the school curriculum, and customised one-on-one programmes for children and families with specific needs. The friendly BARK Buddies help ease even the most fearful of children into a positive and gratifying interaction with dogs.
The BARK NZ team firmly believes that dogs can be precious family members, and that they add tremendous value to the life of a child. They are devoted companions and can teach love, compassion, and responsibility.
BARK NZ are passionate about what they do and are available to come out and visit your local preschool, kindergarten or early childhood learning centre. They are easily approachable via their website, www.bark.org.nz and can also be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bark.org.nz. Any time you’re out at a community event keep an eye out for the BARK NZ stall. Feel free to head over and introduce yourself, your children, and meet the team. Oh, and don’t forget to say hello to the friendly BARK Buddies; they love making new friends!
This article was kindly written by Lisa Gibbons from Bark NZ