9 Tips to Prevent Dog Bites on Halloween

9 Tips to Prevent Dog Bites on Halloween

Many dogs enjoy the holidays. Nonstop doorbell rings and visitors showering attention may be doggy bliss for your pet. But even friendly, laid-back pooches get their tails in a twist over the disruption to routine. That can be dangerous for pets and for people.

Dogs recognize people by smell but also by sight. A dog may not recognize a favorite human behind that Halloween mask. Miniature goblins, witches and other ghoulish visitors often are strange children he won’t know. A flowing cape or sparkly fairy wings can be scary. A frightened dog easily mistakes a waving “light saber” or pitch fork as a weapon aimed to hurt.

Halloween is a high risk holiday for dog bites with children in costumes that scare dogs encountering strange pets on their own turf. And when hero dogs defend themselves, their homes and their people from “space aliens” your child could get bitten. Wolfsbane, garlic and holy water won’t help but these tips can keep trick or treaters safe and the dogs happy, too.

Call Ahead. It’s best to plan trick or treat visits with people you know-and ask them about confining their dog before you arrive. Pet “parents” want to keep their “fur-kids” safe, too, and should appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Keep Doors Clear. Closed spaces and especially entryways get dogs excited. Your pet will be hyper-protective of doors and gates. So when the kids arrive, keep King in his own room. Advise your children to avoid entering a stranger’s gated fence when a dog is inside-that keeps him from escaping, too.

Admire From a Distance. Costumed kids should not approach, touch or play with any dog they don’t know. Even a known pet may be suspicious of a three-foot Sponge-Bob. Cute dogs may be friendly but swipe candy or knock down a toddler.

Supervise. There’s nothing better than parents eyeballing their kids and dogs. An adult should always be present when kids and dogs mix. Petting any dog requires permission first from the person who knows the dog best.

Ask Before Treating. Candy can be dangerous for dogs. And some owners may not want you to treat their dog with food rewards, either, so always ask. Offering a treat to an unknown dog might tell him you’re a walking smorgasbord open for business so he pesters you-or mugs you-for the trick or treat bag.

Look Away. Should you notice a strange dog, don’t stare. In dog language that can challenge to dog to show you the sharp ends of his teeth.

Be a Tree. Loud giggly voices, running and arm waving can be so exciting to dogs they chase kids out of reflex and perhaps knock them down. So if a strange dog does approach standing still-like a tree-helps keep him calm.

Be a Log. Dogs instinctively jump up to check out a human’s face, and that Halloween mask may prove too intriguing. But if your child gets knocked down, coach her to act like a log-roll up and be still-until the dog goes away. Otherwise a wriggling kid teases the dog to grab the costume-or an ankle-and play tug.

Avoid Doggy Gangs. Just like rambunctious kids, when a bunch of friendly well behaved dogs get together they can egg each other on and paw-step over the line. So give doggy gangs some space. If their approach concerns you, don’t run or yell-stay still. You can sacrifice the candy by throwing it far enough away to entice them to munch while you walk away.

Approximately 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year with 800,000 individuals-half of them children-requiring medical treatment. Half of all children in the US experience a dog bite by age 12, with 5 to 9 year olds and boys at significantly higher risk. That’s actually a low percentage compared to other types of injuries, but still scary enough for Halloween. Use these tips and avoid adding to the statistics.