Fall is a time of changing routines as family activities move into high gear. “I receive an increased number of dog bite calls every year during times of change such as vacation and school start up”, says animal behaviour specialist Teresa Lewin. Changes in routine are stressful for dogs. Anxious and upset dogs are more likely to bite and statistics show that most bites to children are caused by a family pet.
Here are some tips to keep the dog from becoming anxious and to keep kids safe:
- Supervise dogs and children at all times!
- During times of transition while everyone is getting ready for school or coming home from school, secure your dog in a calmer setting (such as a crate or gated area) with a safe and engaging chew toy such as a Kong or stuffed bone. Noisy children can get dogs very wound up and excited. This can lead to unintended injury.
- Do some training or play with the dog for a few minutes after the kids have gone to school. The dog can get lonely when all of a sudden the family is gone and he is all alone for the day.
- If the entire family is out for the whole day, try to have a neighbor or dog walker come in at lunch time to play with the dog and take him for a walk.
- After school, bring the dog back into the general area with the kids once everyone is calm. Have each child take a turn take a turn asking the dog to do something (a trick or even just sit) for a treat so that a calm routine is established around coming home time.
- Learn to read dog body language and teach kids too. The Doggone Crazy! board game (see below) is a fun way to learn how dogs communicate their feelings.
- Watch for signs of anxiety such as yawning, lip licking and half moon shape in the white of the eye (pleading look). Intervene and redirect both kids and dog to another activity if you see any of these signs while the kids are interacting with the dog or are playing in the vicinity of the dog.
- Teach kids to respect the dog. If he turns his head away or moves away the kids should leave him alone. Ask the kids questions about the dog's feelings. For example, "What do you think Fido is trying to tell us when he walks away when we try to pet him?"
- Practice basic obedience with your dog for short periods several times a day to keep him out of trouble and to stimulate his mind.
- Take kids and dog for a hike in the woods. A tired dog is a good dog!
Dogs are important family members but it is critical to remember that they are animals and they still have natural dog behaviors and instincts. Dogs do best when they are shown what we want them to do and are rewarded for good behaviour. Dogs like routine and to know what is going to happen next. By planning ahead and providing the opportunity for the dog to be in a low stress situation around kids, everyone is poised for success and trouble free transition to fall routines.
About the Doggone Crazy! board game:
Save 20% until the end of September 2012. Use the discount code FALLGAME when purchasing the Doggone Crazy! board game at the Doggone Safe store (US and Canada only).