Yes MY dog, a dog who has been with me for more than ten years (got him when he was 3). A dog you’d never guess in your wildest dreams would ever bite anyone, let alone my 2 year old son. Ten years ago, before I knew better, this dog put up very patiently with my youngest daughter who was then a toddler. She’d sit on him, lay on him, tug an ear or his tail now and then, and he’d just go about his day seemingly unbothered by it.
She would do the very things we see posted in pictures and videos on Facebook, Twitter etc. on a daily basis. All those seemingly harmless “cute” photos and videos.
Ten years ago I would’ve thought these photos and videos were cute too. Some days now I wish I could go back to just seeing cute photos and videos rather than reading what the dog is really saying and thinking “I hope I never see them in a tragic news story ‘Family dog mauls toddler”
Ten years ago I may have even jumped on the bandwagon of people defending these photos/videos when someone dare say the dog is stressed and the child is in a potential bite situation.
It doesn’t seem to matter how nicely the person points out the danger, or what credentials they have, the backlash that ensues can get downright nasty. It leaves you with a sinking feeling, you were only trying to help prevent something bad.
When people point out that “Hey, the dog doesn’t look happy, here’s what I see” it is NOT a personal attack. It’s meant to help people avoid their child being bitten and dog from losing his home or worse. The observations made are base on years of research and statistics, not something the person made up to pick on you.
Maybe you get lucky, maybe your dog never does go on to bite a child. (knock on wood). But perhaps the next person who sees that picture or video and decides it’s cute, cool or O.K. isn’t that lucky with their child. When we post photos like that people think what’s happening is harmless.
Did you know that in U.S. it’s estimated that half of all children will be bitten by the time they turn 12 years old? Most bites come from the family dog or a dog the child knows. Many of these bites occur to the child’s face, either due to the size of the child, the child hugging the dog or the child getting in the dogs face. I can’t be the only one who’s seen a child trying to have a staring contest with a dog.
As a parent I would’ve been happy to have someone say “Hey, your dog is trying to tell you he’s not comfortable” when I let my daughter do those things ten years ago, before I knew better.
I would never want to put my child or dog in harms way.
Now, knowing what know, it makes me feel bad for not listening to my dog all those years ago and am grateful to be one of the ones that didn’t have something bad happen. I’m sure if I looked back today, I’d see those subtle signs of “I’m not comfortable with this, help me”. The signs can be so very subtle, and can be easily missed. When the subtle signs go ignored and the dog finally has enough and bites, the people will say “I don’t know what happened he’s always been so good with the kids, he just bit out of the blue” It doesn’t happen that way. Everyone can learn what those subtle signs are, once you do they become like big neon flashing signs.
Those signs never turn off once you know them, ever, not even for a second no matter how hard you try to pull the plug on them for even just a little bit.
This is one of the hardest things I’ve written, because even knowing what I know, my dog bit my son.
It happened in a flash. My son and I were in the living room sitting on the couch, my dog was in the hallway behind the baby gate. I got up to grab something and when I did my son got up as well. Before I knew it he was at the gate. I didn’t think much of it, I’d be right there to guide the interaction in a just a second. They’d be fine for that second, my dog has always been fine.
Just a second was all it took. My dog let out a deep growl and bit my son’s hand. Thank the heavens that my son was able to recoil his hand and shake it off with nothing more than a Mommy, Owie and a confused look on his face.
No, my 2 year old didn’t move faster than my now thirteen year old dog can bite, my dog has great bite inhibition. I am so very thankful for that.
My point is don’t think it could never happen to you, if someone points something out, remember it is not a personal attack.
Take it for what it is, someone is just looking out for the safety and well being of everyone involved in that photo or video.
We’re always learning and just because you didn’t see those neon signs before doesn’t make you a bad person.
*This incident took place a few weeks ago. Both my son and my dog are doing just fine, although managed much more these days. I no longer allow my dog to hang out in that hallway, he feels cornered there. I’m not sure how much longer my old boy will be with us, but we’re certainly going to keep him happy, safe and content for the time we have left with him.
For more information on children and dogs you can also visit http://www.familypaws.com Family Paws has many great resources for families with kids and dogs including many great webinars such as Crawling Babies and Conflicted Dogs http://familypaws.com/crawling-babies-conflicted-dogs/