Misunderstanding Dogs & Kids
Many parents feel the family dog would never hurt their child. We again see them as humans and believe they love our children as “siblings”. Your dog may love you and your children, but in many cases they do not respect either. The main reason for this post is a recent climb in child biting cases and some cases that I fear might have disastrous endings due to the passiveness in owners today. If you are worried your dog may bite someone or it has shown aggression to anyone (even another animal), you need to be aware that your child may also be at risk.
In 1994 Mathews and Lattal did a study about dog bites, it stated approximately one million dog bites occur each year just in the United States. The number is now 4.5 million according to the ASPCA; and this number is just the bites that have been reported. 70% of these bites happen to a child, that’s over 3.5 million kids bitten annually in the United States. Of these children bitten, 77% or just fewer than 2.5 million have been bitten in the facial area. Sadly the number of children fatalities is climbing. In 2008 the CDC recorded 23 dog bite fatalities, only 1 was not a child, 16 of these fatalities were kids under 11 yrs old. These are eye-opening facts that every dog owner/parent needs to be aware of.
The following are rules every parent should follow for your child’s safety.
1. Never allow dogs in your child’s room. This should be completely off limits! If your dog is stealing your child’s belongings and sleeping in bed with them, they are not showing respect to your child!
2. The dog should never be allowed to be around a child when unsupervised! Most bites occur when a parent is not there. If your dog feels threatened, they will correct the child. Their correction is by using their teeth, just as they do with puppies.
3. Your dog should have strong obedience commands already in place. This way you can apply a down-stay if necessary.
4. Your dog should see you as the leader of your pack! If not, they will take it upon themselves to correct a child. Remember, only the pack leader decides who gets corrected.
5. Your dog should not be playing a tug game with a child, under any circumstance! Tug is a challenge for rank in the pack.
6. Children should not be allowed to go near a dog’s food dish or bone! Even the most highly trained dog can have a momentary lapse of reason.
7. Your dog should have a strong groundwork foundation to build upon.
Without strict rules or boundaries, it is impossible to expect your dog to “respect” you or a child
How to Avoid Dog Bites in Children
1. NEVER disturb any dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies. This is the first rule of dog etiquette. In any of these situations, a bite is almost definite.
2. NEVER pet a dog, even your own, without letting him see and sniff you first. A dog uses their sense of smell before all other senses. This is how they identify people and other animals.
3. Children must always ASK PERMISSION from the owner and their parents BEFORE petting any dog. I never allowed my daughter near strange dogs much less pet them and she grew up with “misunderstood” dogs. I have seen too many parents let their children run up to a dog on a leash assuming the dog was friendly, while the frantic owner is pulling the dog back to avoid an accidental bite. Responsible owners of aggressive dogs walk them to expend their energy and show they are in control; they should not have to have the added task of intercepting unattended children. And NEVER approach a strange dog you don’t know or a dog that is not with his owner.
4. If the owner cannot control the dog and have it SIT nicely for the child to pet, WALK AWAY, even if the owner says they “love kids”. A 50 pound excited dog can do serious damage with its paws.
5. NEVER approach a dog that is confined behind a fence, within a car, or on a chain. It is normal for a dog to protect its territory. We have seen many well-trained dogs that put on quite the display to keep strangers out of their areas! Again, they are doing their job.
6. NEVER RUN away from a dog that is chasing you. STOP, STAND STILL, REMAIN CALM, ARMS AT YOUR SIDES, be quiet, and DO NOT SCREAM. Walk away SLOWLY FACING THE DOG BUT NOT STARING AT its eyes! If a dog attacks, “feed” him your jacket, a schoolbook, a bicycle, or anything else that you can get between you and the dog. If you are attacked, STOP, CURL UP IN A BALL LIKE A TURTLE, COVER YOUR HEAD WITH YOUR ARMS AND HANDS
7. If a dog starts to circle you, turn with it and don’t let it get behind you! Turn your body slowly with the dog and NEVER stare at them! Dogs hunt by circling their prey. They attack from behind 90 percent of the time to avoid being injured. Play it smart, NO eye contact, no screaming! If you scream, they will think you are prey or in a weakened state.
8. Just because a dog wags its tail does not mean it’s friendly! A dog’s tail tells a lot, not just that it is happy. A high set tail that is wagging is not a friendly tail. A very quick wag is a sign of an anxious state. Just the tip wagging in a lowered position means the dog is afraid.
9. If a dog is injured, do not touch or try to help it. Go get an adult!
10. Do not tease a dog by poking at it through a fence and never chase a dog.
If you own any dog, but especially a dog that has had the smallest amount of aggression; it is your moral and legal obligation to make sure that you do everything possible to insure that your dog is never in a situation where it could bite a child.
Tara, Brandie & the Pack.