The kids playing with the family dog is a classic scene, it evokes warm fuzzy feelings. Sadly the warm fuzzies are replaced with fear and pain if the family dog bites a child. In today’s world a dog that bites is very often a dog that is surrendered to a shelter. A dog with a bite history is extremely unlikely to be adopted and are among the first to be euthanized.
Which is a tragedy because most dog bites are preventable. An animal will almost always give you a warning that a bite is imminent if you know what to look for.
If you’re a dog parent that has your dog around children it is your responsibility to know your dog’s behavior clues that indicate stress or anxiety and reduce or eliminate those stressors. This isn’t always easy today when we are literally bombarded by images of animals on social media. The images form the basis of funny jokes or memes that make us laugh, or are labeled cute and elicit the “Awwwww” response. So we see something that we have a positive emotional reaction to and in our hearts and minds we assume the dog is also having a good time.
This is very far from being true. But because we think the dog is okay with being squeezed or kissed or held up in midair we miss the dog’s cues that they aren’t happy. And when we miss early warning signs, dogs move on to the one you can’t miss: a bite. If you’re lucky it’s a quick growl and a snap that doesn’t make contact, but even that is pushing your dog too far.
I found this video recently. It’s important enough that I want to share it as far and wide as possible. Everyone with a kid and a dog should watch.
I’ve raised and trained lots of different kids of animals but I have nearly zero experience with one very important kind of critter – children. I don’t have any of my own and I’ll be blunt here I’m not very good with them. So I have never had to integrate dogs and kids into a family unit. The first time I watched that video I cried because none of the dogs in that video are happy, at best they are uncomfortably tolerant. At worst they are in pain or even afraid. But most people will only see the adorable kids and their beaming faces and assume it’s all good.
Watch it again, but now pay attention to the expressions on the dogs faces. Instead of thinking “oh that’s funny” I want you look at how tense the dog’s eyes and mouths are, how they flatten their ears or turn their heads away from being smooched. As it says in the video they are trying to be good but you should not let your dog get pushed into any situation that puts such a look on its face.
I found this video on this website. It’s called Stop the 77 because their data shows that 77% of dog bites are either the family dog or a friend’s dog. They have put together a program to help you learn how to teach your kids how to safely interact with dogs. I really love it. If you have kids and you have dogs you need to go there and check it out. Fun videos and educational materials make it super easy to teach your kids to be safe around dogs.
Really. I mean it. You need to visit this website. The information there could make the difference between having a much loved famity member for life or getting rid of your dog.