Tips to help children and dogs interact safely this holiday season

JANESVILLE (WITI) -- A 10-year-old girl is on the road to recovery after she was mauled by a relative's bulldog over the weekend.

It happened Saturday night, December 14th on South Jackson Street in Janesville.

Police say the 90-pound American Bulldog attacked the girl, taking out a chunk from the back of her arm and a piece of her ear.

Police say the dog has bitten a child in the past, and should not have been interacting with children.

The dog is being held at the Dane County Humane Society until a court date to decide whether it should be euthanized.

This case is a reminder of how having strangers in the home over the holidays -- along with the hustle and bustle of the season, can be stressful for dogs.

"I think the most important thing is recognizing that dogs have their limits," Daniela Vaughan said.

Vaughan has been working with animals for years. She says anything from wrapping paper, to strange people, to overly excited children can be enough to put any dog on Santa's naughty list.

"A lot of times, if owners are making themselves aware of those stress signs that dogs give off beforehand, you can prevent a lot of those outward reactions like growling and lunging from happening," Vaughan said.

If a dog is licking their lips, panting, drooling, and/or avoiding contact with people, Vaughan says it's a good idea to give them a break.

"A lot of times that's what they would rather do anyways -- kind of get away the action for a little and calm down," Vaughan said.

If your child isn't used to being around dogs -- you should talk to them before heading to a home where dogs are present.

Vaughan says it's important to make sure children know how to approach dogs. Asking the owner if you can pet the dog is a good start.

Vaughan says children should avoid grabbing the dog's ears or tail and the top of their heads.

"Don't do stuff like grabbing them and hugging them. Our own dogs will tolerate it, but they don't love it," Vaughan said.

Vaughan encourages putting dogs on a leash at first because it can be scary for children if a dog jumps up on them.

"When dogs are on their mat, or chewing on their toy, or eating their food, just leave them alone. Treat that like it's their own private space," Vaughan said.

Another thing that can work for dogs are anxiety medications. Talk to your vet to see whether introducing anxiety medications can help your dog.