Children were able to interact with a furry friend these holidays while learning dog safety strategies.

The Rotorua SPCA held four dog safety sessions last week, with workshops for 3 to 7-year-olds and 8 to 13-year-olds.

SPCA Rotorua education manager Geoff Rudsdale says they had been looking at providing a holiday programme that was meaningful, so decided to do some workshops on dog safety.

"It's been pretty successful. It had quite a good take up."


Each session had a maximum of eight children and their parents, and those spots were all taken up, he says.

He says the workshops covered how to greet and meet a dog for the first time, talking about what to do if chased or knocked over by a dog and introducing the children to their animal advocate Max.

Geoff says kids were taught about 'being a tree' if chased by a dog or 'being a turtle' if knocked over.

He says the theory behind these is the dogs will get bored.

"If children are running or screaming it brings out the dog's predatory instincts. It's a bit like throwing a ball for a dog."

Geoff says Max is gentle with the children and they get them to practice things like holding their hand out in a small fist and letting the dog sniff them.

He says the workshops also covered why dogs bite, and includes a slideshow of dogs in different moods to see if the children can read the body language.

Most of the time the children are pretty good, but toddlers tend to struggle, he says.

Geoff says parents were invited to attend the holiday workshops too.

"Sometimes parents don't know about these things or they might be concerned that in the neighbourhood there are many dogs roaming free - that's something a lot of the parents said."

He says holding information sessions around dog safety is important because of the number of children and people getting bitten by dogs, probably unnecessarily - "because of their approach to them, not reading their body language properly, and not being aware of what the dog is trying to tell them".

Geoff says it is important to not assume all dogs are going to be like your family-friendly dog at home.

"They are great companions, they are loving companions, but you have to be sensible in the way you treat them and work with them."

Geoff also uses a government programme that all schools have. The main box, which is provided by Internal Affairs, includes games and a DVD.

He says the Bay of Plenty Regional Council has handouts for parents to keep children safe around dogs too.

Geoff will hold more dog safety workshops at the new Te Aka Mauri building on Friday, February 9 and Tuesday, February 20. They will cost a gold coin and booking is required.

To book go to

If there is enough interest he is happy to hold more sessions.