As we visited friends in Minnesota last week, our hostess looked out and saw two neighborhood children and their pet dog being accosted by two large, stray dogs.  We both went running out of the house to confront the situation and scared the stray dogs off before things got ugly.  Back in the house afterwards, I asked my friend’s 10-year-old son James what he would have done if the dogs had confronted him and his lab Noah when the two were out walking shortly before this incident.

“I would have told Noah ‘No!’ and tried to pull him away.”

“What if he didn’t come and he and the other dogs started fighting?” I asked.

“I would have dropped his leash,” he said, but before I could congratulate him, he added, “and tried to grab Noah’s collar to pull him away.”

I was horrified and talked with James about the correct steps to take, and then told my friends to be sure they discussed this with him as well.  Not long after that, Kelli went to the neighbor’s house to make sure the children weren’t too upset.

With my conversation fresh in her mind, she asked the children what they would have done if we hadn’t come out.  The 11-year-old girl said while she pulled on her dog’s leash she would ask her 9-year-old brother to grab his collar and pull.

Taking the family dog for a walk is a great job for responsible children if the neighborhood is safe and the dog is trained to walk properly on leash.

The dog should not only walk without pulling, but should be trained to sit/stay, look and to quiet on command.  As I learned last week, however, it’s important that parents educate their children as to what they should do if an incident occurs.

Children should be aware of their surroundings when walking the dog.  If they see a friend with another dog on aleash, it is best for both kids to hold the dogs close to their sides and not allow the dogs to come into contact with one another.

Even dogs who know one another or play together may display different behaviors when they encounter one another on leash, so it’s best not to give them that opportunity.

If your child should encounter a loose dog when walking, he should shorten the leash to bring his dog close to his side.  If possible, dog and child should continue moving at the same pace and in the same direction they were prior to spotting the loose dog.

If your dog should begin to pull towards or bark at the other dog, ask him to quiet, sit/stay and look, to keep his focus on you.  Your child should never try to run away with the dog, as running can trigger the other dog to attack.

Should the other dog approach, even in a friendly fashion, ask your child to call to the other dog in a firm voice to “go” or “go home!” or “get!”  Often this will persuade a friendly dog to move away.

Should the worst occur and another dog run up to your child and dog, instruct your son or daughter to move out of the way.  If barking or growling occurs, you child can again yell at the other dog, but if that is unsuccessful and the dogs begin to fight, it is critical that your child knows to get out of the way.

He or she should drop the leash and go quickly to the nearest door where someone appears to be home and bang and knock and yell for help.

Should there be any sort of attack or bite and the other dog leaves the scene, be sure your child knows not to run up to his dog.

If the dog is not injured, your child should stand back and call the dog to come to them.  An excited, over-stimulated dog might bite even a very familiar person if he’s run up on.

If the dog is injured, your child needs to stay back and get help quickly.  Explain to your child that injured dogs often bite even people they love due to pain or fear, and that it’s critical that an adult be called to help out.

Taking the dog for a walk is a fun activity for both child and dog, but sometimes the unexpected does happen.  As I realized myself last week, preparing them in advance is crucial.

Karlene Turkington, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, is a lifelong animal lover who has been training dogs for over 20 years. Readers are welcome to send their questions to: Information provided here is a basic overview of issues. Specific health or behavioral concerns should be discussed with your veterinarian or qualified animal trainer or behaviorist.