Have you ever been out for a walk with your dog and had several children run up to you and get in your dog’s face? It happens to Niki and I all the time. There we are calmly walking down the street when all of a sudden there are small people accosting us and trying to pet Niki. “Wait! Stop!” I hold up my hand and say. At this point the parent or guardian with these out of control children usually says something along the lines of “Junior isn’t doing anything wrong! He just wants to pet your dog!”
Junior may simply want to pet my dog, but he is going about it all the wrong way! Parents who allow their children to run up to a strange dog and get in their space are simply asking for trouble! This is definitely NOT the way to approach a dog you have never met.
Niki is a mild mannered dog, and years of training and training maintenance have made it so I generally do not have to worry about how she will react to strangers, but I still make sure that no one gets in her face suddenly, and see that children approach her properly. This often involves stopping children in their tracks as they make a beeline for her, and instructing them as to how to approach her. Some parents appreciate this, others look at me as if I have two heads. I have had a least one parent tell me that if my dog is not good with children I shouldn’t have her out in public! It is parents like that I want to talk about today!
To those parents I say, “why are you allowing your child to invade my dog’s space?” Do you think my dog is a play toy for any child that happens to be wandering by? Do you think that I walk my dog for the amusement of your sniveling brats? (Oops! My resentment is showing, sorry about that but…)
Look, don’t get me wrong, I am a Mother. I LOVE children, I just happen to think they should be well behaved and most are not. Most parents (especially those who do not keep pets) seem to think it is okay for their children to run at strange dogs with excitement and get in their face. Even if they own a dog they don’t teach their children proper approach to animals. Therein lies the problem.
Let’s look at it this way. If you were walking down the street and a block ahead you saw a woman walking with a tiger on a leash, would you allow your children to yell out “kitty” run up to the animal and get in it’s face? Of course not! Tigers are wild animals capable of eating Junior for lunch and looking for the second course. No parent in their right mind would allow their child to approach a tiger! Yet you will allow your child to run up and excitedly approach a strange dog without a second thought? Makes no sense!
The average dog is just a capable of doing harm to your child as the tiger is no matter what it’s breed. Does it not therefore follow that you should monitor your child’s approach to ANY animal? Why do you feel that because it’s a dog allowing your child to approach it in a loud and boisterous manner is okay? That animal is still unknown to you and you have no idea how it will react to a rapid approach by your child. Why is it that you feel your child has the right to invade my dog’s space and force themselves on her? She’s not a piece of playground equipment for your child to hang off of, she is a living breathing animal with feelings and reactions, reactions you might not expect or like. That doesn’t mean she is a bad dog, it simply means that she is entitled to her space the same way we expect to be, and your child doesn’t have a right to invade that space!
The proper way for your child to approach my dog when you see us out and about would be to calmly approach, and ask permission to pet my dog. Once that permission is granted your child should then put out their hand palm up under the dog’s nose and allow the dog to sniff them before attempting to pet it. Proper approach could be the difference between a pleasant encounter with a calm pet and a serious bite incident. Teaching your child how to approach a strange animal is an important lesson whether you own a dog or not!
Preventing dog bites is not all in the hands of dog owners, it’s a two way street. When a dog bites there are two people to blame (no the dog is not to blame) the dog’s owner, and the bite victim. “What?” I hear you scream. “You blame the bite victim?” In a word, YES, and here’s why.
When a bite incident takes place two people have failed to take responsibility for their actions. Firstly the dog owner, because whether your dog bites while running around in a crowd or at the end of your leash, you were not paying attention to your dog’s body language. You were not there or were not paying attention and did not see the telltale little signs that told you Fido was anxious and felt uncomfortable in the situation. Secondly, the bite victim or a parent or guardian of the bite victim. You approached a dog without permission, or one that was off leash with no owner in sight, and expected someone else to take responsibility for your actions.
True dog bite prevention is a collaborative effort. It involves the due diligence of both parties, dog owner and potential bite victim. Dog owners have the right to walk their pets in public without those pets being accosted by out of control children who invade their space, and the general public has the right to walk down the street without being attacked and bitten by off leash or out of control leashed dogs.
In short what it all boils down to is this, if dog owners take responsibility for their pets, and parents control their kids it goes a long way towards helping to prevent dog bites from happening.
Have a great Sunday Everybody,
See you next week!