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Dogs and Kids: Stop pretending that dogs don’t bite them

May 20, 2015 42 comments

Jasper's new friend. He threw his stick for him until he could barely chase it anymore.On Wednesday night, I took the dogs to the dog park (like I usually do). Jasper spent his time chasing after sticks, Daisy explored the woods and Cupcake sniffed to her heart’s desire. We even walked with some friends (Tom and his dogs Ruby and Max), and said hello to a few other friends we know. It was fun evening

It was towards the end of our walk that we first heard them. Children. Little ones. We could also hear their dog barking, and the owner calling it over and over again, with absolutely no success. Trouble was coming. I could just feel it. I called Daisy, Jasper and Cupcake to me and we headed out of the woods and across the field to the far end of the park.

I admit I am always little wary of anyone bringing kids to the park. You just never know what can happen. I watched from across the field as the little children exited the woods with two women. They all turned and walked along the edge of the field – away from us.  I breathed a sigh of relief and led my dogs in the opposite direction.

As we walked, I noticed that the older child, about 5 years old, was carrying an arm load of sticks. The other child a toddler about 2-3 years old, followed closely behind him and then stopped to pick up a stick of his own.

The older boy followed his mom and the other woman down the mulched path, away from the toddler. I kept watching as he and the two women kept moving away from the toddler, widening the distance between them. They got a good distance away from him before they even turned to see where he was. They seemed unconcerned that they were so far away from him.

Jack Russell Terrier SnarlingIt was then I saw the dog approach. He went right up to the child’s hand and face and grabbed the stick right from his hand. (Luckily, the toddler did not try to take it back.) The dog stayed there, looking at the child, no more than a couple of feet away from him and his face, not moving closer, but also not moving away.  It was not until  his owner called him back to her, that he finally left the child. Thankfully, he had a great recall.

The whole time this was going on, the mother and other woman just stood there, almost half the length of the dog park away from the toddler. They did not yell, or call his name, or even start to run back to him. They just sent the older son back to retrieve him. I don’t even think they realized how dangerous a position her child had been in. I don’t think she realized how quickly this incident could have turned into a tragedy.

She was damn lucky. How foolish that mother was to bring her small child to a dog park, filled with dogs she did not know, and then leave him in such a terribly vulnerable position. A dog bite could have happened so easily. Another dog could have caused some serious damage to her child. That this dog, or another dog, did not do so is a miracle. That mother was so very lucky that the dog her toddler encountered was well-trained and had a good recall. She was lucky her child encountered  a “good” dog. But, let’s face it, even a “good” dog can bite.

We humans have to get better at preventing dog bites. We need to take interactions between dogs and kids more seriously. We need to be more purposeful about where, when and HOW we expose dogs and kids to one another. And, I’m not just talking about stranger’s dogs either. More children are bitten by the family pet than by a dog they do not know.

So how do we get better at keeping both dogs and kids safe?

We must:

  • Teach kids that they have to ask permission before approaching a strange dog. ALWAYS.
  • Educate kids on how to tell when a dog is safe to approach and then how to do so safely. Make it a game. Quiz them in the car and in the park. (Stop the 77 has a great video for pre-schoolers called “I Speak Doggie.”)
  • Supervise, whenever a dog and child are together (NO multi-tasking or playing on your cell phone). We need to be completely present and watching their interactions. We also need to be watching for signals that the dog is done with the interaction. (4Paws University shared a great graphic and information today on their Facebook page.) If you see a dog LOOK AWAY, TURN AWAY or MOVE AWAY, the dog has had enough and you need to either remove the dog or the child from the interaction.
  • Stop punishing dogs for growling. This is your warning sign that your dog has had enough. When you punish a dog for growling, you are taking away the alarm bell that tells you a bite could happen. (4Paws University shared a great graphic on this one too.)
  • Teach our kids how to act when a strange dog approaches them that is scary. (Doggone Safe shows children how to Be Like A Tree in order to avoid a dog bite.)
  • Stop pretending that your dog is different from other dogs and that they like having a child climbing on them. They really don’t. Do you like it when a child pulls your hair, yanks on your ear, steps on your gut, kicks your leg or bites you? No? If we don’t like it, then why do we expect dogs to like it any better? It’s not cute. It’s rude (and dangerous).

When a dog bites a child, everyone pays a price.

You lose a dog and a best friend.

Your child loses a friend and his love and trust of dogs.

The dog loses its life.

The kind of behavior displayed in the video below (And if that doesn’t scare you enough, maybe this one will.) has lose-lose results for everyone. Let’s make it stop.

Stop pretending dogs don’t bite.

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2 Akitas+2 Kids=Dog Bites – What Would You Do?

November 14, 2010 19 comments

Last night our local TV station aired this story “Animal Control Investigates Burnsville Dog Attack” about two Akitas being investigated for biting two children (not the dog owner’s children). Immediately, I wondered about the circumstances. I can’t help it. Whenever I hear of a dog bite I wonder what really happened… what was the back story behind the bite, the dog’s bite history, the dog’s socialization, etc.

In this case, the children were visiting a family friend who was the owner of the Akitas. The kids were playing in the backyard with the Akitas, unaccompanied by an adult, when they were bit. The owner was clear – his dog never should have bitten her in any way, but he also wondered what the children might have done to cause it. He wants his dogs saved. The mother of the children said that her children “would never go up to a dog and aggravate it in any way”. She wants the dogs put down.

It seems like there is little information on either side of this story, since the only ones in the backyard with the dogs were the kids. No adults were even watching the dogs and kids when they were bit. So if you were Animal Control, what would you do?

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