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My sister Rachel will be hosting Thanksgiving this year. She has a large German shepherd who is friendly but is not used to children. How can I make sure that my children are safe during the celebration?

When my extended family gets together, the celebrations are boisterous, fun, and loud. There are children everywhere. This is great for me, but it can be nerve-wracking to a dog. Even normally friendly dogs may bite when little visitors invade their territory.

Parents can help prevent holiday dog bites. Your first step should be to talk to your children. Remind them that Aunt Rachel owns a dog and that the dog is friendly, but isn’t used to children. Tell them that dogs don’t like hugs and kisses and remind them not to pet the dog until an adult says it is okay. Teach them to stay still like a tree if the dog approaches.

Then talk to your sister. Ask her if she will have a quiet place for the dog if he becomes agitated or upset. Ask her to wait until everyone is settled in before introducing the dog to your children. Make sure that someone will be watching the dog at all times and looking for signs of stress.

Signs of stress that indicate a dog may bite:

  • The dog yawns
  • The dog licks his chops
  • The dog shows the white part of his eye in a half-moon shape
  • The dog growls or bares his teeth
  • The dog turns his head away
  • The dog walks away or tries to hide under furniture
  • The dog freezes and becomes very still with his mouth closed
  • The dog stares intently
     

If you see any of these signs, isolate the dog immediately.

Never leave a child alone with the dog. If possible, assign one adult to be in charge of each child. That adult should have no other tasks.

Spending time with family is an important part of the holidays. However, a dog bite can ruin both Thanksgiving dinner and family relationships. Advance planning can protect both your children and your relationship with your sister.

Happy Thanksgiving. The Milwaukee dog bite attorneys at Hupy and Abraham hope your holiday is injury-free. If you should need us, we are available at 800-800-5678.

Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham