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Dogs & Family

  • Children and Dog Bites: What Is Really Behind The Numbers?

    Posted December 13, 2013 By in Dogs & Family, Uncategorized With | No Comments

    Allowing children on the floor with family dogs that have the freedom to move away is one thing. Forcing dogs to stay while allowing children to sit on then, hug them, pull on them, or even allowing a child to interact with a dog (family or not) when there is a valued resource like a bone, a bed, or dinner is another thing. I for one was one of those babies that crawled all over my dogs and was ok. My son on the other hand, while in the care of my mother, was attacked by her dog and although has mentally recovered just fine, will have physical scars for life. Many dogs are ok physically interacting with children, but it is not something as a trainer I can promote. To ensure reducing the numbers of dog bites to children, it comes down to is dog/child socialization, child education, people managing their kids around dogs, and training dogs positively without pain or intimidation.

    • DOG/CHILD SOCIALIZATION – Socializing dogs with kids is very important whether you have kids or not, and doing it within the first 12 weeks of age is key. If you miss this period, then you have to understand that your dog may not be ok with kids 100% of the time, so you really then have to desensitize and help your dog have a familiarity and positive association with kids, along with strict management when kids are around. The problem is, many dogs don’t have this opportunity because not everyone has kids and therefore don’t think about the importance of socializing their dog with kids. In addition we rescue dogs all the time without knowing for sure what their true experience with kids has been. In the off chance that we have to give our dog up for adoption one day, a dog that has been socialized with kids is more likely to find a new forever home than a dog that has not.
    • EDUCATING OUR CHILDREN – kids need to understand that dogs are beings with emotions and boundaries just like people. Dogs too get scared, frustrated, confused, nervous, and upset. Without hands and a voice, the only way a dog can tell us to move away is with their mouths. Children need to be educated on how to interact with dogs, the signs dogs give as bite warnings, and what things could cause a dog (familiar or not) to bite. If this is done at an early and impressionable age by using their natural attraction and affection for cute fuzzy creatures to cultivate an emotional connection to not only dogs, but animals in general, they will develop a philanthropic awareness that of course can and would be shared with peers.
    • MANAGEMENT WITH KIDS & DOGS – Many dog bites and attacks happen when the child was left unattended for even a short amount of time. Kids (especially under 7) and dogs should be closely monitored at all times, as should dogs that are new to the family or inexperienced with kids. In addition even dogs who have proven to be “safe” with kids should be watched closely if they have gone through any kind of stress, trauma, or have an illness. Things that can stress a dog is very similar to what would stress a human – an injury, a change in family dynamics (addition or loss), a change in routine, being unsure or confused, mental or physical fatigue, being in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people, etc., etc. When kids and dogs are around each other, adults need to always be conscious of the mental and physical state of the dog, taking into consideration anything that has happened within the last week that would have caused stress in the dog. A bout of diarrhea combined with a stressful vet or grooming visit, combined with loud constructions outside, combined with missing a daily walk to release pent up energy, combined with a toddler pulling on the dogs ears, then leading to a bite. Perhaps under normal circumstances where the dog was able to have a normal stress free day or two, ear pulling would not have been a big deal, but with all the added stresses from the previous few days the dog snapped. We as humans take out our stresses on each other all the time – thus the saying “You didn’t have to bite my head off!”
    • TRAINING DOGS POSITIVELY – Aggression breeds aggression. If you hit, kick, scream at, scare, or use anything that creates pain, fear , or intimidation to teach your dog lessons you are also teaching your dog that humans are scary and can hurt you. When a dog, or any being for that matter, gets to a point where they are cornered, scared and can’t take it anymore they will lash out and defend themselves. You see this with abused women, abused children, kids that have been bullied in school, and even the orphaned Elephants in Africa who had witnessed violence and death to family members and are now experience PTSD when encountering people, making them very volatile and dangerous. It is a proven fact that dogs that are trained with fear, pain, and/or intimidation are much more likely to demonstrate aggression directly or indirectly when conflicted. This also addresses child education because if you train your dog like this in front of your kids, your kids are going to learn to interact with your dog the same way, hugely increasing the chances of getting bit.

    When a dog bites a child, whether it is a familiar dog or not, it is not the dogs fault or the Childs fault, it is the responsible adults fault. ANY dog has the potential to bite.

    For more information on dog bite prevention go to http://doggonesafe.com/ .

    For statistics on dog bites, go to American Humane Organization webpage

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