The holidays are a wonderful yet chaotic time of year full of daily routines turned upside down, fabulous smells from the kitchen, and family and friends we don't get to see often enough. The season, while a wonderful time of year, can sometimes be overwhelming for us and for our four-legged family members. Dogs who aren't accustomed to a houseful of extended family can easily be stressed by this sudden change in their environment, and family members who aren't accustomed to daily interactions with a dog can add to the confusion. Children who are visiting and aren't accustomed to interacting with dogs are especially vulnerable to accidents this time of year due to the fact that they are low to the ground, are often running around and speaking in high-pitched, excited voices, and, although well-meaning, often can't resist the urge to give that cute pooch of yours a big ol' hug and a kiss. Add that to all the distraction that comes with the holiday season and it's easy to see where we can get into trouble.
So, kids! It's an important time to remember the do's and don'ts with dogs:
Ask for permission before approaching an unfamiliar dog.
Once given permission, slowly reach your closed fist outwards to let him sniff you. If the dog is too excited, tell the owner "thank you, but maybe we'll try again another time".
Pet the dog in a slow motion in the direction in which the hair grows. Avoid patting or reaching over his/her head.
If approached by a loose, unknown dog, stand like a tree and fold your arms in and wait for an adult. If the dog begins to jump or get too excited, curl up on the ground like a turtle and call to the nearest adult for help.
Adults: Supervise children's interactions with dogs at all times. Praise both human and dog for good behavior!
Approach a dog who is playing with a toy, chewing on a bone, eating, or sleeping.
Approach a dog without his/her owner's permission.
Pat the dog directly on or reach over his/her head.
Run away from a dog, scream, or shout at them.
Sneak up behind a dog or pull her tail.
Approach a dog that is tied up, or behind a fence. These restraints can cause what is called thwarting (think "ooooh! I really want to play with that toy but I can't reach it!") and can cause frustration in even the friendliest of dogs.
Climb over a fence to pet a dog. A stranger raining from the sky can be scary for a dog!
Children and dogs can make for wonderful, inseprable companions, and teaching our kids safety around dogs is the best way to ensure they're best friends forever.