Ten children enrolled at Partners-in-Play’s morning classes received a visit from two rescue dogs, Oodie the Toy Poodle and Liddie the Doberman Pincher Belgian Malanoir mix Monday. The pair dropped by to help students with their animal learning section and to acclimate the children on how to approach a dog.

From 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. two morning class sessions, with children ages three to five, and who have been learning about farm animals, zoo animals and household pets as part of their curriculum, played with the two dogs and received instruction from their owner Jamie Damato, founder of AnimalSense, a dog training group based in Chicago.

“I thought that animals and children are an interesting combination,” said Penny Murad, program director for Partners-in-Play. “We have come up with this curriculum dealing with animals such as zoo animals, farm animals, household pets.

“It could be considered bite prevention but that is not how we are billing it,” Murad said. “It was a chance for kids to visit with dogs and get to know dogs better because there are children who are afraid of them. It is a chance to overcome those fears in a non-threatening setting.”

Bite prevention, while not the main focus of Monday’s activities, was still an important part of the class, as young children are the most likely to be bitten.

“Many bites are delivered to kids under the age of 10 and that is because they don’t know how to interact with dogs.” Damato said.

For her, the main reason behind the class was to teach the kids how to appropriately greet and interact with dogs.

“The best way to protect children is to teach them about dogs,” Damato said. “Healthy exposure is a far greater gift than to keep them from dogs.”

Damato’s instruction focused on how to handle animals properly and how to be careful around animals, said Tammy Bristol, a trainer with AnimalSense.

During the two sessions, Damato “talked about how to approach a strange dog, how to pet a dog, how to act if a strange dog approaches you, what to do if you see a dog in the street, etc.” Murad said.

“One of the things we talked about today in class was to ask first,” she said. “If someone isn’t there to ask, then you just don’t pet that dog. We also talked about what to do if they see a stray dog: Not to run away, to stand very still and make no eye contact”to be a tree or a post.”

When asked how they would feel if they weren’t allowed to pet a dog, one of the students responded she would feel happy and sad, Damato said.

The child, she said, would feel sad she did not get to pet the dog, yet happy because she knew the owner wouldn’t let her pet the dog for her own safety.

Oodie and Liddie are no ordinary dogs.  Not only are they rescue dogs, but Liddie in particular, has been featured on television and is a canine good citizen.

Canine good citizens “go through special training and learn to be around people in wheel chairs or people who may be blind,” Murad said.

These dogs are particularly trained to be around sudden noises that frighten most dogs, Murad said.

“This dog has been specially trained to be around children, who are unpredictable at times,” she said.

Partners-in-Play, located at 7209 W. Roosevelt Rd., is a non-profit organization based in Forest Park that has been working in the area for over 21 years providing parent and child education in crafts, gym and music.

The organization holds classes designed to assure children opportunities to fully unfold their capacity in a safe, challenging, supportive play environment.

AnimalSense is a pet training organization that offers private instruction, behavior consultations and pre-pet consultations for pets and their owners. They have certified pet dog trainers on staff. For more information go online at http://www.animalsense.com.