As you begin planning your children's Halloween activities, it's important to take the time to talk to them about how to behave when they encounter dogs -- whether they'll be trick-or-treating that night or going to someone's home for a party.
Halloween is an exciting night for dogs. Lots of people are coming to the door. Treats are being handed out. When they go on their walk, there are more people out than usual, and they may be wearing long, flowing outfits and carrying candy and things that look like they'd make good chew toys.
It can be overwhelming, and even dogs that are typically well-behaved may bite or display other signs of aggression due to all the unusual stimuli. Dogs that are never outside without a leash may rush out the door when it's opened repeatedly for trick-or-treaters.
It's essential for kids (and adults) to know what to do when they encounter a dog on Halloween night -- or anytime. Take care even with dogs you know from around the neighborhood who are usually friendly. Following are some tips:
- If you hear a dog barking aggressively inside a house or fenced-in yard, move on to the next place.
- If you're uncomfortable with the way a dog is behaving when the door is opened, let the owner know. Responsible people will restrain their dogs. If they don't, slowly back away and leave. Don't move toward the animal.
- If it's a dog you know who may not recognize you in your costume, say its name to help it recognize you. However, be careful about petting it.
- Watch for signs that a dog is afraid or ready to defend its people or territory. These signs include cowering, having its ears pinned back and pacing.
Regardless of whether you encounter an unrestrained or off-leash dog at a home or while walking around, remain calm, still and quiet. Don't make eye contact. Stay where you are until the dog moves on. Too often, children run away screaming. That will only cause the dog to follow and possibly bite or knock them down.
If you're with your child, you can not only discuss these tips ahead of time but model this behavior when you encounter a dog on Halloween (and any time). If you or your child suffers a dog bite, treat the wound immediately and get medical attention if necessary. If the injury is serious, you may want to explore your legal options for seeking compensation from the dog's owners.