Halloween is a stressful time for dogs. Most dogs do not enjoy being dressed up or seeing lots of strange creatures or having many different people coming to the door, but not getting to come in. Halloween is full of scary things, unpredictable behavior from humans and changes from the norm, none of which makes dogs happy. Here are some tips for dog owners to help make your dog more comfortable and to remove the risk that he might get too stressed and pose a danger to your kids, or other people’s kids.
Here’s a really easy way for kids to ask the dog if he wants more attention. Dog behavior consultant and dog/child relationship expert Jennifer Shryock of Family Paws Parent Education recommends the Pet-Pause-Respect method.
Here are the steps:
- Dog comes to the child for attention
- Child pets the dog for a few seconds
- Child stops petting the dog
- Dog asks for more or moves away
- Child respects the dog’s wish to be left alone if the dog turns away or moves away.
Here is a video (from many years ago) of Jen’s kids demonstrating:
One of the tips that experts give to parents with dogs in the house, is that they should supervise. The trouble with that advice is that supervision means different things to different people. To some parents, supervision means just being home, to others it means watching out the window while the kids play with the dog outside while to others it means having hands on and being part of the interaction between the child and the dog. Many dog bites have happened to children while the parents were “supervising”. No parent wants their child to be bitten by a dog, to have stitches and surgeries and physical and emotional scars for life.
Dogs are giving us information all the time about how they are feeling and what they might do next. If every child and dog owner knew how to interpret dog body language and paid attention to what the dog is saying, there would be many fewer adverse interactions with dogs. Here are some resources to help teach kids to speak dog.
Speak Dog Video
Dogs are stimulated by movement and noise. Children are known for their movement and noise! Still, it is possible to work toward and achieve positive and comfortable relationships between dogs and kids.
One of the most valuable skills that children can learn is to stand still and “Be a Tree” if a strange dog comes near them, or if a dog is bothering them or becoming too frisky (even their own dog).
Here’s how to Be a Tree:
- Fold in your branches (hand folded in front)
- Watch your roots grow (look at your feet)
- Count your breaths in your head until help comes or the dog goes away
Help kids, help dogs, do a community service and promote your business all at the same time with the Be a Tree dog bite prevention program. In this FREE recorded webinar, the Be a Tree program is explained by co-creators Joan Orr and Teresa Lewin as well as experienced presenter and dog/child relationship expert, Jennifer Shryock of Family Paws.
The Be a Tree program is a very popular classroom presentation to teach kids about dog body language and how to act safely around dogs. The program is fun and interactive and focuses on empathy and positive messages.
If you are already a presenter, bring your questions and share your experiences. If you want to offer dog safety information as a service to your community, we’ll walk you through the program and you’ll find out exactly what’s involved.
“I love ‘be a tree’ (and ‘be a rock’). It’s the best of its kind. This information has to get out there”
Jean Donaldson – Internationally recognized dog behavior expert, award-winning author and director of the Academy for Dog Trainers.
An Easter gathering can be especially stressful for dogs due to changes in routine and the comings and going of visitors. A dog that gets too stressed may snap or growl when normally he would be more tolerant.
What to Teach Kids
- Let the dog come to you for attention. If he doesn’t come over, then just leave him alone. Even if he was friendly on other days, he may be overwhelmed by too many people, too much noise and too much food around that he’s no allowed to have.
- If the dog comes to say hello, stand still like a tree and let him sniff. This is how dogs get to know you.
- If he’s panting and wagging and acting like he wants attention, you can pet him if there is an adult there to say it’s OK.
- Pet him by scratching the side of his neck. Dogs don’t like hands coming down over their heads.
- If he’s too excited, he seems stiff or seems unsure, just stand still until he either goes away, or becomes friendly, loose and wiggly.
- Leave the dog alone if he is in his bed, crate or under furniture or if he has a toy or treat. Only interact with dogs that come to you acting wiggly and happy.
By Joan Orr and Teresa Lewin
Valentine’s Day is coming up and we all know that dogs need love too. Not just on one day, but every day!
Dogs love us unconditionally, but they don’t always love the things we do to them. Most dogs don’t like hugs and kisses, especially not from kids and especially not from kids they don’t know. To show your dog that you love him, learn to give him the things that he really does like and teach your kids to do the same.
Here are some suggestions for Valentine’s Day about how to love your dog in a way that the dog will appreciate.
Pet Your Dog on His Terms
- Invite your dog to come to you for attention. If your dog turns away or moves away, respect his wishes and leave him alone. Many dogs like to be near you, but not necessarily to be touched.
- Scratch your dog on the side of the neck or on his chest.
- Avoid hugs and kisses. People enjoy this, but most dogs don’t like hugs and kisses. They might tolerate it, but few actually enjoy it.
- Invite your dog to sit with you while your read or watch TV. Let him lean on you or put his head on your lap on his terms.
- Some dogs enjoy a scratch behind the ears. Most dogs don’t enjoy hands coming down on the top of their heads.
- Show your kids how to pet your dog for a few seconds and then stop. If he tries to get them continue then you will know he likes it. If he moves away or doesn’t ask for more, you’ll know he’s done.
Teach Your Kids
If there is only one thing that your child knows about dogs it should be this: Dogs don’t chase things that are standing still. When was the last time you saw a dog chasing a tree?
Teach your kids to stand still like a tree if a strange dog comes near or any dog is bothering them. This applies to their own dog, dogs they know and puppies. Any time a dog gets excited or seems threatening, being a tree will defuse the situation. Trees are non-threatening and boring.
They can stop being trees when the dog leaves or an adult comes to help. If the dog shows interest again, go back to being trees.