Columns & Blogs

How a parent can handle a trailside encounter between a child and a dog

Whatcom County is seeing an increase in the number of reports of unruly dogs running off-leash on the area's hiking trails and urban paths.

With that in mind, parents who want to keep their children safe - and not spark an unhealthy fear of dogs - should take time before a hike or excursion to discuss the possibility of meeting a dog and how to handle that encounter.

Laura Clark, executive director of the Whatcom Humane Society, offered some simple guidelines for parents, saying they should tell their children never to approach a dog or other animal, leashed or not, without first asking its owner. That holds true even if they know the animal, she said.

"If a family is walking on a trail and an off-leash dog approaches, the child should remain still and not engage the dog - we tell kids to 'act like a tree' - not run, scream, wave arms or other activity that might scare the dog or get the dog more excited or over stimulated," Clark said in an email.

In advance of a outing, parents should make sure that their children know that dogs have personal boundaries, just as people do, and that it's important to use their "quiet voices" - even though they may be excited about seeing a dog. Children should be taught how to pet a dog gently, in case the owner allows it.

Clark said that a loose dog acting in an aggressive manner should be reported immediately to the Whatcom Humane Society or a local animal control agency. Such dogs pose a safety issue for people, other dogs, wildlife and large animals such as horses that also use the trails. She said it's the responsibility of the dog owner to keep their dog leashed, pick up after their dog and to keep their dog under voice control in an approved off-leash area.

To make a report, contact the Whatcom Human Society at 360-733-2080 or go online to It's helpful to have a description of the dog and the owner, and get the license plate of the owner's car if possible.


Whatcom Reads! presents "From Hiking Clubs to the CCCs," a lecture for all ages from 7-8:15 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 4, in the downstairs Lecture Room of the Bellingham Public Library, 210 Central Ave.

Local writer and historian Janet Oakley, author of "Tree Soldier," will describe how the Civilian Conservation Corps and the first hiking groups in the area and the shaped the future of the Mount Baker wilderness.

It's part of events surrounding the Feb. 24-25 appearances of Cheryl Strayed, author of the acclaimed "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail," which is this year's Whatcom Reads book.


"Extra! Extra! A History of Newspapers of Skagit County" opens Saturday, Feb. 1, at the Skagit County Historical Museum, highlighting the history of print media in Skagit County.

The Skagit County Historical Museum is at 501 S. Fourth St. in La Conner. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for seniors and children 6-12. Museum members and children 5 and younger are admitted free. There's also a special family rate of $10 for two adults and two children. For more information about the museum, go to or call 360-466-3365.


Andrea Gabriel of Bellingham, the illustrator of "Why Do I Sing? Animal Songs of the Pacific Northwest," will read from the book and lead story and mask-making activities for children at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 1, at Village Books, 1200 11th St.

Kirkus Reviews called it a "lovely visual tribute" and the Portland Book Review gave it five stars.

For more information, call 360-671-2626 or go online to