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The Chew: Halloween Safety For Your Kids and Dogs

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The following bi-weekly column is written and sponsored by Dog Paws n Cat Claws, which provides a heart-centered and safe environment for your pets. Conveniently located at 5818-C Seminary Road in Bailey’s Crossroads, DPnCC offers doggy daycare, boarding, grooming, walking and training services, plus in-home pet care.

If you are a parent of small children, you will very likely spend the evening of Halloween walking through your neighborhood asking for candy with your kids dressed in silly costumes. 

While out and about, you will be sure to see someone with a dog out on an evening walk or joining the family in the festivities. There is a natural attraction between children and dogs. It doesn’t take long for dogs to figure out that the smaller the human, the more food they are likely to pick up and messy faces are delicious desserts. Kids love dogs because they are soft, adorable and just plain fun to be around. Training your children how to approach dogs they’re not already familiar with is important for many reasons: The most important reason is SAFETY!

First, let’s talk about the approach. Don’t ever RUN at a dog. It can make a dog feel threatened or overwhelmed. A calm, slower approach will allow the dog to see you coming and begin the proper greeting. Another important thing to remember is to ALWAYS ask the owner for permission to continue with the meeting. Most owners are going to be very honest if they believe there could be the slightest issue in meeting new friends. Respect anyone who says it may not be a good idea. 

A large, over-excited dog can do harm to smaller children just by jumping up on them and knocking them over. It is certainly unintentional, but the owner of the dog may not feel comfortable with the possibility of harming your child in this way and therefore ask your child not to approach. ALWAYS comply with any owner’s recommendations, as they know their dog better than anyone else. 

At Dog Paws we train our dog walkers to avoid other people during their walks simply because we don’t always know how they will react in all situations. If there is a dog being walked and they cross the street to avoid you, don’t take it personally — it’s probably a neighborhood dog walker.

Once permission has been granted, walk forward with your arm out in front of you, your hand in a fist, palm facing down. Hold it low to allow the dog to take a few sniffs. If the dogs leans forward or gives it the “lick” of approval you may proceed. If the dog does not lean forward or looks away, it’s better to leave it be. Instruct your child to stay away from petting faces and avoid the tail. Not even the nicest dog in the world is okay with a tail pull. Petting should be gentle and slow with long strokes to begin with. Encourage your children to talk to the owner about what the dog’s favorite “scratch spot” might be.

Something to remember is that dogs — even those who do well with children on a regular basis — may feel intimidated if there is a large group of kids. I know a dog that would pull me to the playground on our daily walks to meet the children playing, but once there were more than five of them surrounding her she would show signs of stress. Teach your children to look for these signs of stress in dogs. If a dog is backing away, begins to snarl or you see the hair on the back of his neck and down the spine go up, it’s time to move on.  

Teaching children how to respect dogs will help them develop stronger, healthier pet relationships in the future. Knowing the correct techniques when meeting dogs is the best way for all parties involved. 

Happy Trick-or-Treating! 

Sara Schabach
In-Home Pet Care Manager / Writer Extraordinaire

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