Biff 5When I was a small child, while on a family road trip, we stopped to pick berries at a road side U-Pick stand. During this delightful berry picking excursion, I was bitten by a strange dog.

Looking back, I really didn’t do anything to elicit this dog’s behavior. The only thing we could later think of, was that I had been running down the berry aisles, happily singing and flailing my pail of fresh ollaieberries. Perhaps it startled the dog or illicited his prey drive? Hours later, after locating the owners and confirming that the dog was not rabid, and treating my fairly minor bite wound, we were on our way again. While this dog bite incident was traumatic and very stressful to me and my family, I healed nicely and went on to love dogs and not fear them.

During family travels it’s common to come in contact with unfamiliar dogs, both companion dogs and service dogs. Dogs are everywhere families travel these days: amusement parks, cruises, restaurants, hotels, concerts, and parks.

While any service dog should be of excellent temperament and the following safety issues should never be a concern with a trained working dog, it’s still prudent to teach our children the basics of dog safety when it comes to interacting with unfamiliar dogs wherever they go and especially when traveling with the family.

Most children assume that every dog they encounter is as friendly and socialized as the ones they are used to at home. Unfortunately close to a million Americans require medical attention each year from dog bites and nearly half of those injuries are sustained by children.

Children under the age of 10 are at highest risk for dog bite injuries so it’s important that we school our children on some safety precautions when interacting with unfamiliar canines.

  • Teach your children not to approach an unfamiliar dog and that if one approaches them to stay as calm and quiet as possible.
  • Instruct children to not pet any unfamiliar dog without first allowing the dog to approach them on the dog’s terms with plenty of space and time for sniffing.
  • Tell children to never run to or from a dog screaming or making loud and sudden movements and noises and to keep their arms down.
  • Teach your children not to take food, bones or toys from a dog even to play and to not stare directly into a dogs eyes as this can be perceived as a threat.
  • And most importantly never ever leave a small child alone and unattended with a dog, even with a friend’s dog in a back yard. Deaths and injuries occur every year where children are visiting someone’s home and are left to play unattended in a back yard with an unfamiliar dog.

Dogs should be respected, not feared, but common sense and education go a long way in preventing accidents wherever our family travels take us.

Carmel L. Mooney is the editor of, an online travel magazine. Carmel co-hosts a travel radio show every Saturday afternoon on KJAY 1430 AM in Sacramento. Her family travel column can be read in California Kids Magazine at: You can follow her on Twitter: @CarmelLeeMooneyor Facebook. Carmel is also the Executive Director of Pawsitive Service Dog Solutions, a non-profit that trains and places Autism Service Dogs. You can read her service dog blog at: