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Want to Know the Truth about Halloween Candy & Cavities?

Last updated on December 10th, 2019 at 02:24 am

Let’s be realistic, as much as we try to limit Trick or Treat 2our children’s in take of sugar and candy, Halloween is way too much fun to not participate. Plus, we get to reap the rewards as the parents of the children with the over size pillow case for a trick or treat bag!

In all seriousness, candy is not the cause of cavities.. diet is! Every time a child puts something in his/her mouth, their PH is lowered and therefore is more acidic which helps break down food. This is all part of the digestive process along with chewing.

What is worse then a big bag full of Halloween candy? Soda pop! (Even sugar free or diet soda). Soda has phosphoric acid which creates the bubbles. We use citric in dentistry to roughen a tooth surface to help it bond to filling material. Another type of drink to avoid are sports drinks. They are also very acidic and cause problems when sipped on over a long period of time. Water is always the best way to rehydrate.

Cookies, chips and pretzels are long chains of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are sugar. When cookies, chips and pretzels get wet with saliva they get sticky and stay in the grooves of the teeth.

Believe it or not, chocolate, within moderation, is actually a better snack. The fat in chocolate makes the tooth slick so it does not stick to it.

We hand out chocolate for trick or treats! It’s ok to do this once a year.
Happy Halloween!

Parents: It’s Time for A “Back In School” Reality Check

Last updated on December 10th, 2019 at 02:25 am

School is now in full swing, the “honeymoon period” is over and studies say kid stress is mounting. This is the time to check in on how your child is doing and nip any problems in the bud.

checking inAccording to a poll from the University of Michigan, childhood stress is a top-5 concern for parents, ahead of bullying and just behind Internet safety. And 56% of parents believe the stress levels are getting worse, especially during the school year.  One thing is true: stressed-out children have a tougher time focusing on the teacher’s lessons and enjoying as well as succeeding in school Here are a few tips to help your kids manage those busy schedules and keep stress levels in check.

Set up a “30-day check in” Just like when you start a new job, parents should sit down with their kids each month to take stock and see if there are any problem areas. This way you can discover problems like overscheduling or bullies and nip them in the bud before they get out of hand. Here are the top kid stressors to check in on:

  • Overscheduled: This is the time to check your child’s calendar to see if it is overscheduled. Does he really need to do everything that is listed? Is one of those activities boosting instead of reducing stress? Can you cut one thing? Ask him!
  • Homework: Get to that open house and be sure to ask about the teacher’s homework policy. How much does she expect kids to do each night? Is your child keeping up?
  • Grades: Review those first test scores and grades on perhaps the first essay or book report. If there is a problem, check in with the teacher. Is your child in the right ability groups? Do you need to hire the high school student next door as a tutor? If the struggle is lasting and your child just doesn’t get it, your son or daughter might need a referral for a Individual Education Plan.
  • Social jungle: Bullies, mean girls and aggressive kids are unfortunately part of the school scene. How is your kid faring? For a quick gauge ask him to draw a map of the cafeteria: “Where do you sit? Who sits near you?” (The cafeteria is often a place where kids are most likely to be rejected. Does your child have social support?) Ask your younger child to draw the playground: “Where do you usually play? Who plays with you?” Every child needs at least one loyal buddy. If your child lacks one, then it’s time to boost friendship making skills and extend those pal invites to your home.

Tune into stress signs. Each kid responds differently, but the key is to identify your child’s physical behavioral or emotions signs before he is on overload. A clue is to look for behaviors that are not typical for your child.

Physical Kid Stress Signs

  • Headache, neck aches and backaches
  • Nausea, diarrhea, constipation, stomachache, vomiting
  • Shaky hands, sweaty palms, feeling shaky, lightheadedness
  • Bedwetting
  • Trouble sleeping, nightmares
  • Change in appetite
  • Stuttering
  • Frequent colds, fatigue

Emotional or Behavior Kid Stress Signs

  • New or reoccurring fears; anxiety and worries
  • Trouble concentrating; frequent daydreaming
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Social withdrawal, unwilling to participate in school or family activities
  • Moodiness; sulking; or inability to control emotions
  • Nail biting; hair twirling; thumb-sucking; fist clenching; feet tapping
  • Acting out, anger, aggressive behaviors such as tantrums, disorderly conduct
  • Regression or baby-like behaviors
  • Excessive whining or crying
  • Clinging, more dependent, won’t let you out of sight, withdrawal

Try to handwrite notes and reminders – Parents and kids are communicating more and more via text message and email, so slow down and take a minute to write a quick note like “Good luck on your test” or “Dentist appointment at 4:00” and put it in their bag. Kids don’t admit it, but they love this special attention and it helps them feel more relaxed during a busy day.

Reduce after-school stress. After-school stress is a big issue for kids and they need some downtime to help them relax. At the same time, you don’t want them to just zone out completely. The trick is finding alone-time activities that help them relax a few minutes and release some of that stress, but are also fun AND keep their minds engaged. Most kids don’t need more than a few minutes of a stress reducer, but the key is finding what works for your child and then turn that stress reducer into a routine so the child does the same brief relaxer everyday. Research shows your child will then be able to focus more on that homework and acquire a lifelong habit.

  • For the tween and teen kids – the newspaper is a great multi-purpose tool. Most newspapers are written around a 9th grade level (USA Today is at a 5th grade level), and just reading the paper every day can help spark that love of reading and learning. (YES!) There’s something for everyone – a crossword to build vocabulary skills, the kids section has games and brain teasers, and calculating stats in the sports section can even help with math skills. The trick here is to find the one section that you think might spark your kid’s interest (even the comics) and then put it right by a healthy snack. Circle an article that you think your teen might enjoy (from Lindsay Lohan or a movie review) and you can use that as conversation bridger to how things are going in your kid’s real world.
  • While the younger kids don’t have quite as much stress, they still can find fun ways to relax and brush up on the new skills they are learning. My favorite game that kids will also love is VTech’s MobiGo, a new educational gaming system for kids ages 3-8. It combines touch screen technology with important early learning skills like math and vocabulary. Kids can swipe, drag and tap, just like Mom and Dad do on their electronic devices. The great part is that it is hand-held so you the child can use it anywhere–in the carpool while waiting for brother or on the couch. Parents can plug it into the computer and visit www.vtechkids.com/download to download progress reports for their kids, along with all kinds of games, themes and other content.

Get them to talk up about their day. Of course, you want to stay connected with your kid, but there is an art to getting kids to open up so they will be more likely to tell you about their day. Doing so will help you weigh how your kid is handling stress.Here are a few secrets to the never-ending battle of “How was your day?” and getting beyond, “FINE!”

  • Wait! The time kids are most stressed is the moment they walk in the door. So don’t push the “how was your day?” inquiry. In fact, teens say they hate that question. “It’s predictable. She’s going to ask, ‘How was your day?’ Instead, a simple, “Looks like you could use a snack and a minute to unwind. Glad your home” works best.
  • Use your kid’s time zone. Identify the time your kid is most receptive to chatting. With one of my sons I discovered it was around five o’clock in the afternoon by the refrigerator, and that’s where I’d plant myself.
  • Don’t ask questions that kids can answer with “yes,” “no,” or “fine.” If you ask “what did you do after lunch?” is more likely to get a response other than yes or no. To help you find a conversation topic about what’s going on at school, check the school website or the school/teacher newsletter. Your kids may be more likely to engage in the conversation: “Wow, the next football game is going to be tough! Do you think your school has a chance?”
  • Talk while doing. Boys in particular are more likely to open up when they are doing something. So trying talking while he’s stirring up a smoothie, shooting hoops or playing lego’s.
  • Start a family ritual to connect. It used to be family dinners, but busy schedules are making that a rarity. It doesn’t have to be elaborate – get the kids magazine subscriptions that math their interests. You can read the articles and engage them on topics they are excited about over a snack. Or set up a time from 8:00 pm where everyone in the family stops and meets in the kitchen for a backrub, a healthy snack or a check-in. The key is find a time that works for you and then turn it into a routine.

If you notice a concerning change in your child that is not typical and lasts, then don’t wait. Call for an appointment with the teacher. Check with other caregivers in your child’s life. Stress builds and is damaging to our children’s academic success, as well as emotional and physical health.

Now is the best time to take a reality check on your child.

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Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research. The Big Book of Parenting Solutions has been released and is now available at amazon.com

How to Raise Empathetic and Caring Kids in A Self-Absorbed World

Last updated on December 10th, 2019 at 02:26 am

Following our conscience can be tough at any age. But, for children, whose conscience is still developing, it can be a real challenge. So, how can you raise your child to do the right thing when faced with a dilemma? Here are some helpful hints to get (and keep) your child on the right track.

• Lead by Example – We all have situations that require us to make moral decisions. When these situations arise, make sure you’re doing the right thing yourself, and make sure to talk about it with your kids. We’re not talking about tooting your own horn. But, if you’re in a sticky situation and your child is aware of it, letting them know that you had a choice to make – and that the choice was difficult, will help them to think through situations when they arise. If they see you taking the moral high ground, they’ll be much more likely to do so as well.

• Teach Empathy – Let your children observe situations that help them develop empathy. We’re often so consumed with providing a good life for our children, that we fail to show our children that not everyone has it as good. Being empathetic is really the skill of standing in someone else’s shoes and knowing how it feels. Practice developing empathy with activities – Blindfold your children and play tag or put headphones on and walk into town. Of course, be safe while they learn and grow. Help your children observe the lives of others. Teach them to open the door for an elder person or allow a child with a disability on the swing set first.

• Model Giving Back – Why not spend part of this Summer digging a garden at a children’s shelter? This Thanksgiving serve meals at a soup kitchen. Then help out with Toys for Tots this Christmas. When your children practice caring for others, they’re more likely to consider how their decisions might benefit or hurt other people. This gives them that little “voice” that helps them do the right thing.

• Praise Positive Behavior – When you witness your child doing the right thing, point it out. Sharing their toys, cleaning up a mess they made without being told, and following the rules at home without complaint are all situations that deserve your praise. If you make your children feel good about doing the right thing, they’ll want to do it.

• Have Appropriate Consequences for Not Doing the Right Thing – Sometimes, when your children choose not to do the right thing, the results include lying, cheating and stealing. These behaviors should be addressed with consequences that teach – and that they’ll remember. Pre-determine consequences for behaviors such as pushing, shoving or being selfish. Involve your children in generating your consequence list, so that they are committed to the consequence process. Make consequences relate to the infraction and focus on giving back, improving or repairing relationships.

• Allow Reality To Teach Lessons – Don’t cover up for your child. For instance, if you catch your child stealing, you should make him return the item to the owner at once, and fess up to what he did as part of the teaching experience. It’s likely that having to own up to what he did will teach him a lesson he’ll never forget.

Teaching your children to be responsible is about showing them the “right thing to do”. Do so by modeling, using age-appropriate expectations and teaching life lessons every day. It is possible to raise empathetic, sympathetic and caring kids in today’s self absorbed world. It just takes some patience, attention, teaching and caring on your part.

What Not To Do if Your Child is Bullied Online

Last updated on December 10th, 2019 at 02:25 am

No parent ever wants their child to be bullied online.

Upset teenage girl with smartphone in dark roomBut if it happens, would you know what to do about it?  Better yet, would you know what NOT to do?  Too often, we focus on what we should be doing that we fail to consider what we shouldn’t do at a time like this.

Getting through a child being bullied will take a lot – mostly, it will take time and patience.  Here are six things not to do while you’re helping your child get past it.

1. Don’t Lecture

Best selling author, Stephen Covey, is quoted as having said that, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”  He’s right about that.  This is the time to listen to your child, not lecture them on what happened to them or what they might have done.

Right now, the child is probably scared, but maybe not for the reason many people would expect.  Being attacked can take a toll on a child, but what can make it even worse is the way that adults respond to it.  Being told that they need to be able to handle it themselves, being labeled as a snitch or having their technology restricted can all make children hesitant to speak out at a time when they need it more than anything.

Isolating a victim only makes it worse.  Instead, listen to what they have to say.  Ask for clarification, but try to avoid asking leading questions.  For example, instead of asking the child if that’s when “they posted the video on Snapchat”, ask them, “what happened next?”  It will provide a clearer picture of what happened and can avoid them taking shortcuts, potentially leaving out important points which need to be heard.

2. Don’t Accuse or Overreact

Next, don’t make it worse than it really is by overreacting.  After listening to the child, make sure that what’s being reported is really what happened.  There are several reasons why it may not be what it appears to be at first.

  1. Typos – We all make typing mistakes and auto-correct isn’t always our friend. One misspelled word or grammar mistake can dramatically alter the meaning of a message, making it come off very differently than intended.
  2. Having a Bad Day – Anyone can have a bad day, including the typist and the reader. Letting emotions cloud our perceptions can cause problems that aren’t really there.
  3. Confusion – Maybe the person who posted it simply wasn’t clear in their meaning. Or maybe the reader misunderstood what was meant.  Either way, no harm might have been intended.
  4. Failed Humor – I tell my students all the time that humor in written form doesn’t come off as it does when heard aloud. It often needs the right context and inflection to be understood.

When discussing the matter with others, especially with the parents of a child being accused of being the bully, keeping a level head can make all the difference.  State the facts of the case, but avoid coming off as inflammatory.  Just as you’re there to protect your child, the other parents are there to protect their child.  Making the case calmly can mean the difference between having an ally and having protective parents close ranks, eliminating the possibility of meaningful dialogue.

3. Don’t Tell Your Child to Ignore It

Being able to take an active stance against bullying can go a long way to helping kids feel that they have some control in their lives.  Studies have shown that the majority of kids being cyberbullied don’t report it to an adult, much less to their parents.  As Rebecca Fraser-Hill indicates in this article, feeling powerless is one reason why kids don’t report it.

Parents often tell their children that if they are ever attacked online, they should just ignore it.  That engaging with the bully is the wrong approach to take and the bully will move on if they don’t get a reaction from their target, so they should simply not engage and the problem will go away.  That made sense to me, until I attended a program by Christa Tinari from Peace Praxis a few years ago.  She advised the exact opposite and I love her reasoning.

Assuming that strategy works and they do “move on”, all you’ve done is set up another child for being bullied.  Instead, the target of the bullying needs to let the aggressor know, in no uncertain terms, that their actions are not wanted.  The idea is that the bully may not realize that their actions are as bad as they really are, making them stop their actions.

This can be as simple as replying back to the person and telling them that their message wasn’t appreciated and they should stop.  But it will vary, depending on the nature of the initial message.  Some messages are clearly a case of bullying, while others may fall under the four scenarios mentioned above in the “Don’t Accuse or Overreact” section of this article.

In some cases, the person’s intention was to bully and no amount of replying back from the target will likely get them to stop.  That’s where Christa’s next idea comes into play.  To reinforce the message to the bully that they’re wrong, Christa’s next recommendation was one that I’ve really taken to heart – the idea of Positive Slamming.  The idea is that when someone see another person being bullied (online or offline), that others should immediately come to that person’s defense. The more people who do it, quickly and publicly, shows the bully that their actions aren’t appreciated and hopefully, makes them realize that they’re in the wrong here.  It may not stop every bully, but those that believe that their behavior is perfectly acceptable and may even believe they have the support of their friends, may do a double-take and stop.  They need to be made to realize that their behavior is NOT ok.

While Michele Borba doesn’t call it Positive Slamming, her article on teaching kids to be active bystanders calls out many of the same reasons why we want to get kids to be active bystanders in bullying situations. The tricky part here is that those who are defending the victim do JUST that – defend the victim.  They should not go an the offensive and make matters worse.

Letting a bullying victim know that they aren’t alone in this and that there are people who care about them can literally mean the difference between life and death.  Just ask anyone who has suffered at the hands of a bully, including those who have been the victim of domestic violence.

“What hurts the victim the most is not the cruelty of the oppressor,
but the silence of the bystander.”

Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize Winner

In the event that the situation can’t be resolved through these ways, kids need to know that they need to tell a trusted adult what is happening.  It might be a parent, family member, teacher, religious leader or any other adult who can help with the situation.  Many kids resist telling their parents, but they need to have someone that they can trust in these situations and parents should encourage them to speak to an adult, even if it’s not with them.

4. Don’t Ignore It Either

As parents, we should not ignore what our children are saying to us, even if we think it’s a “little problem” that will likely resolve itself.  Doing nothing can send them the message that their parents don’t care about what’s happening to them.  Also, as Rebecca Fraser-Hill mentioned in her article, they may believe that telling about bullying won’t make a difference and that’s certainly what kids will take away from an experience where their parents tell them to ignore it.

Imagine then, when something even more serious happens, if the child does not come forward, because past experience has shown them that their parents will not do anything about it. Make sure they know – if they say something, you’ll do something.

5. Don’t Let Them Delete Anything…And Neither Should You

After telling a child that if they ever do get bullied online to just ignore it, the next bit of advice they might give is to tell them to delete it.  As much as we’d like to remove all proof of such unacceptable behavior, if there is one good aspect of cyberbullying, it’s that it leaves a trail, otherwise known as EVIDENCE!

Having emails, texts or posts/comments may be the only way to prove the allegations.  Print them out and keep a folder of them later.  If necessary, take screen shots so that if someone else is able to delete it (and does so), there is evidence to present to parents, school officials and the police.

6. Don’t Force Mediation between the Bully and the Victim

In conflict resolution, both parties wish to come to an agreement, but that’s not the case with bullying.  That doesn’t stop many people from forcing the parties involved from using mediation or conflict resolution techniques.

The bully doesn’t want the situation to change.  They like it the way that it is.  Conflict resolution assumes two parties disagree, but both want to come to a resolution.  It can also send the message that both children are partially right and partially wrong and we are here to work this out. But that is not the case. Bullying is one-sided.  The victim wants no part of it.  Not only is the bully unlikely to take the process seriously, it runs the risk of antagonizing them and could make matters worse.

Conclusion

Remember to avoid these mistakes and hopefully, a family with a child who has been bullied online will be able to get through it as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Parents need to put their priorities on making their kids feel safe and protected, while doing what they can to prevent it from happening again.

Home Alone After School? Top 8 Safety Checks for Parents

Last updated on October 14th, 2019 at 10:30 am

little boy opening doorWe are now a few weeks into the new school year and along with all the new fresh faces roaming the halls during school, there are fresh faces staying home alone after school for the first time.   Now I’m pretty sure that if you have made the decision to leave your child home alone after school that they are what you deem to be old enough and a responsible person.  Yet even the most responsible adult can run into problems or have emergencies when home alone, so a little pre-planning and forethought can go a long way to your child’s safety and your peace of mind.

Let’s start with the basic safety checks:

  • Emergency contact numbers, are they known or preprogrammed into a phone or highly visible place near the phone?, Parents, friends, neighbors ,poison  control ?, the best case scenario would be to have someone close to your home whom you trust to be aware of the situation and willing to be on call.
  • Safety gear, Next we can get all of our safety gear such as flashlights, candles, and a fire extinguisher all together and know how to safely use each.  As a little side note, any fire station will gladly teach you how to properly use an extinguisher.
  • Medications, these can be anything from pills that parents take to needed medications for the child like Insulin or any type of med available in the home.  Medications that parents take should be kept locked up and medications the child may need to take while home alone should be clearly taught and understood and closely monitored by the parents upon coming home.
  • Household cleaners should always be locked up if there are  little ones around and if they are not, it should be understood the dangers they present when used and how to take proper precautions, such as opening a window for ventilation and hand and eye protection.
  • Major emergencies, It cannot be understated how important it is to call 911. It should be understood that calling 911 is not embarrassing and should not get anyone in trouble.  It is what we are here for.  Should anything happen in or around the home when your child is home alone that makes them feel unsafe, please instruct them to call 911 right away! ,They could be cooking and accidentally start a fire or smell smoke in an odd place,  hear electrical buzzing, maybe they see or hear someone outside or anything that makes them feel unsafe, please make it ok for them to call 911. If it turns out to be nothing, that is fine. You can talk about it when you get home and everyone is alive, safe and well.

Three of the biggest things we worry about with children that are home alone are Fire, Strangers and Weapons. 

  • In the case of fire, it is a great idea to have an escape plan from your home.  Escaping from a single story window or door may not be hard but a second or third story may require an emergency ladder or alternate route in case of stairs blocked by fire.
  • When it comes to strangers, there is no shortage of bad people. That being said, it is a good idea to have a do not answer the door policy and even a do not acknowledges anyone at the door policy.  If it is at night, the house should be well lit and should the person at the door not go away or make your child feel unsafe then 911 should be the next call. A police officer recently told me it’s a good idea to have a second alarm control keypad in the upstairs area that can be activated with a panic button in case of an intruder or strange noise.
  • When it comes to Weapons it goes without saying that they should be respected and understood.  Your child is home alone and if there are weapons in the home they should be safely stored, locked and secured as to avoid the awful accidents we see on the news every year.   If your child is old enough, trained and certified with a gun, then it is your decision to give them access to it, but be warned because accidents happen.  I would think it would be a better and much safer thing to do the things that deter unwanted guests, such as outdoor lighting, cameras, alarm company signage, a dog, anything that does not put a loaded weapon in your child’s hands.

I hope these safety checks give you something to think about and I hope it keeps all the kids safe.

Keeping You and Your Family Safe From “Free Roaming” Dogs

Last updated on October 14th, 2019 at 10:28 am

Father and toddler feeding and walking with dogMany years ago, my sister had told me that while out walking her small young pup (A shih Tzu/Bichon mix) near my Mom’s house, a huge Mastiff came flying out of a house and ran straight for them. Her initial reaction was one that many of us would have…. Protect the one you love… so she grabbed Sylvi off the ground and used her own body to block the huge dog from getting to her.

I had not heard much more on this subject until recently…. but in the past few months, I have heard it quite a bit. My sister called me for advice on how to respond to some recent articles in her neighborhood newspaper about unleashed aggressive dogs in the neighborhood, that come flying out at people walking by with their dogs or kids. A friend of mine stepped in when a dog viciously went after her dog, and she ended up getting severely bitten in the process. And yet another instance where my friend’s 7 year old daughter was playing in her own front yard and a medium sized stray went after her. She only got a scratch, but that was because luckily, her Dad was right inside and chased the dog away… or it would have been much worse! But the most difficult part of this is that this little girl, who loved all animals, is now a bit fearful of dogs.

Let’s face it, having to be on guard the entire time is anything BUT relaxing!… so how do you handle it when a strange dog comes flying at you, your child, or your dog while you are just out for a nice relaxing stroll?

I have heard many different solutions to this problem… for example, some recommend carrying mace or pepper spray at all times. The problem I find with this is that for it to be effective, the dog has to be right up on you already.  At that point, the spray may lessen the damage they do, but is not going to thwart the attack. The other danger to this is that you are spraying a chemical while you are in a panicked state, not to mention to use this item, you have to remove the cap, point and aim correctly, and make sure the wind outside is in your favor. The chances of you spraying it and hitting your target are minimal at best, and if you accidently spray towards your own eyes, you are now rendered useless and cannot help you, your child or your dog.

Another method I have heard used often is a walking stick brought along on the walk. The stick could be used as a weapon against a stray dog coming at you. However, for the same reason I find the Pepper spray or Mace to not be a good idea, again with a stick, you have to wait until the dog is right up on you to use it effectively.

So what is your best option? To start, some things to do before your next walk:

  1. First off, the most important thing you can do is to remind yourself to stay calm. No one thinks clearly when they are panicked.
  2. With regards to your children, you need to have a safety word that lets them know NOT to scream or run at that moment. Because self preservation is present the minute we are born So instinctively, if a dog runs towards your child, their initial reaction will be to scream and run. This is absolutely the WORST thing that they can do at that moment. When an animal in the wild is actively being hunted or pursued, it shrieks and runs away. So when your child goes to do this, it sets off the chase/prey/hunt instinct even more. Whatever your word(s) may be, make sure your child understands it means to calmly and quietly step behind you, but not to grab your legs….which would restrict your movement.
  3. Another important piece of advice…. Kids are notorious for asking a million questions. This is not the time or place to answer them. I remember growing up my Dad always had one rule in his car that had to be obeyed… if he said, “DUCK” at any time; we were to do it first, ask questions later. Same rule applies to your safety word. Now is not the time for: “But why…??”
  4. Finally – get yourself a very loud air horn. You will find them very inexpensively at Walmart or even at Party City . The advantage to these are they are lightweight, easy to use, no harmful chemicals are utilized, and best of all, it works!! Why does it work? When an animal has ‘locked on’ to a target, it is very hard to sway them from their mark. (We actually discuss this in detail in my post Recognize a Dog’s Body Language Before Your Child Get’s Bitten). Their 100% focus is on that target at the moment. However, a very loud and unexpected noise will break through and interrupt that brain wave that has them focused on you, your child, or your pet. Think of all the old movies you have ever seen that take place in the wilderness…. When the wild animal is about to attack, the human in the movie will shoot their gun into the air… and the animal takes off. Again, it is the loud unexpected noise that startles them and changes that brain wave.

If you are with a pet or a child and a strange dog comes at you, don’t quickly bend and pick them up. This now makes you the obstacle they have to get through to get to their target, and they will have no qualms about attacking you to get to them. Add to this that if you panic and go to pick up your dog or your child, now you have to juggle them and the horn, making it that much harder for you to use the air horn effectively.

Again, the most important thing is for you not to panic…. The calmer you stay, the calmer your child or pet will be knowing that you have the situation under control.

So now lets walk through the steps of what to do if a strange dog is coming at you, your child, or your pet…..

  • If you are walking with your child….. Have the air horn in an easily accessible place… many of them come with belt clip-ons. You see an animal coming towards you, Remember to remain calm…. sudden movements may agitate the stray even more. Give your child the word that means stand behind you. Your child gets behind you and you have your body turned towards the approaching animal. Mother And Daughter Walking Along PathCalmly take the air horn, and now blast the air horn. (Hold the button down for a long continuous noise. You don’t want to keep hitting the button over and over again… remember, it is the loud sudden unexpected noise that startles and stops them… don’t give them a chance to ‘get used to ‘ the noise by repeatedly hitting the button It will lose its effectiveness.) While holding the button down, instruct your child to start slowly walking backwards with you. When the animal stops and/or runs away, be aware that your adrenaline is still pumping…. It is a scary moment…. But do not start running away with your child…. It may cause the animal that was retreating to want to chase you again. Keep calmly walking away until you know you and your child are safe. Now, remember to tell your child what a great job they did!!!! Let them know how proud you are of them, that your teamwork kept both of you safe!!!
  • If you are walking with your dog…. It is important to remember that your dog’s instinct is going to be either fight or flight….. which are both dangerous reactions in this scenario. If their instinct is flight…and they go to run, the aggressive dog is going to give chase. On the flip side, if their instinct is to protect you…and they go into fight mode, they are actually ‘challenging’ the other animal and things can get ugly very fast. So remember, before heading out for your walk, put the air horn in an easy-to-reach convenient place. If another animal comes towards you, immediately tighten up on the leash, or step on the leash as close to their collar as you can get. (One of the advantages of you stepping on the leash close to the collar, is that this unusual action will surprise your dog, and they will be more focused on this than the approaching threat. It will also keep them still and free up your hands.  Now blast that air horn!! Remember that it may startle your dog as well, so make sure you either have a firm grip on your leash, or that your foot holding the leash is firmly planted. The last thing you want is to have your foot on the leash, the air horn frightens your dog, and your dog tries to run, knocking you over in the process. Once the intruder has ran off, do not assume they are gone for good. Start backing away with your dog, keeping an eye on where the intruder went. You don’t want to turn your back on the intruder, thinking he is gone, bending over to pick up your dog and now you are attacked. Once you are sure they are gone, you can then pick up your dog or start walking away… but again, don’t run… it can attract the intruder’s attention and have him coming back for more.
  • If the other dog starts to head back in your direction, blast that horn again, long and loud.  It should stop them in their tracks.  At the very least, it should attract passerby attention and hopefully get you some assistance.

So to wrap this up, we’ll do a quick recap…. Before leaving for your walk, have the air-horn in an easily accessible place. If a strange dog starts to come towards you, remain calm and rational, have your child get behind you slowly, or hold your dog’s leash firmly to you. Do not run away or make any sudden movements. Give the air horn a long steady blast, not a bunch of quick bursts, then slowly back away, keeping an eye on where the intruder disappeared, and once you know you are safe, praise your child or pet your dog and reassure them (and yourself!) that you did a good job keeping every body safe!!

One last comment: as a professional trainer, I’m sorry to have to add that I can’t account for every possible dog’s reaction. I wish I could. But, for example, a dog that has been trained to be aggressive may not react the way the majority of animals would.  There are always exceptions to every rule – however in most cases, this will be the most effective way to keep you and your family safe.