Holiday Safety Tips for Kids and Dogs

Family gatherings during the holidays are the source of fond memories for many. The dog may not enjoy these events as much as the rest of the family. Changes in routines, crowded rooms, unattended food and excited children can often lead to miscommunication between the family dog and guests. Even a normally calm and docile pet may become agitated enough to bite under the extreme circumstances of a boisterous family celebration. Supervision may be lax if each adult thinks that another is watching the children. Children are the most likely victims of dog bites in this situation.

Doggone Safe offers the following tips:

  • Put the dog in his crate with a stuffed KONG or favorite chew toy, at least during the most hectic times – guests arriving and leaving as well as dinner preparation and serving.
  • Assign one adult to be in charge of the dog, to watch for signs of stress and to protect from unwanted attention from children. This adult should have no other responsibilities or duties.
  • Assign one adult to each toddler with no other duties required.
  • Signs of stress include:
    • The dog yawns or licks his chops.
    • The dog shows the white part of his eye in a half moon shape.


  • If the dog shows any of these signs, turns away, gets up and walks away or tries to hide from a child who is trying to pet him, then he wants to be left alone. Put the dog in his crate or in a room away from the guests with a favorite chew toy or stuffed KONG.
  • Do not allow visiting children to hug the dog. Dogs don’t like hugs and kisses. Even if the dog tolerates this under normal circumstances he may not tolerate this from strangers or in a high stress situation with lots of noise and people.
Holiday Safety TIps

Signs of an imminent bite include the following:

  • The dog freezes and becomes very still, with his mouth closed. He may be staring intensely at the person who is bothering him and may growl. This dog is a few seconds away from a bite.
  • The dog growls or raises the fur along his back.
  • If you have multiple dogs, consider kenneling them, crating them or keeping them in another room during large gatherings.
  • Supervise at all times.


We would like to thank Joan Orr M.Sc from Doggone Safe for the wonderful holiday tips!

Joan Orr M.Sc. is a scientist and internationally recognized clicker trainer, member of the Clicker Expo Faculty (2003-2011) and content creator for the Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training and Behavior. Joan is a co-founder and president of Doggone Safe, a non-profit organization dedicated to dog bite prevention. Joan has co-created the dog bite prevention board game Doggone Crazy!, the “Be a Tree”  bite prevention education program for school children and the Clicker Puppy DVD. Joan has many published articles on dog bite prevention, the promotion of force-free training and understanding dog body language and has received many awards.