As some of you may know, I have recently published a children’s book called “What Dogs Like“, a story in rhyme with an important safety message on bite prevention. Nearly 80% of dog bites are from the family or a friends dog. Written as a read-along-rhyme with informative illustrations, “What dogs Like” helps educate young people as well as their parents, on how to behave around their canine friends.
What inspired me to write this particular book was a few things; my little boy, the news with headlines like “family dog attacked out of the blue” and the many uncomfortable pictures/videos shared on social media on a daily basis, with children sometimes laying on, picking up or maybe even hugging their dog, with the dog using as many signals as possible to indicate it is not comfortable.
Firstly it is very rare for dogs to just bite out of the blue, unless there is an underlying medical condition, dogs give many subtle signals way before they growl, bark or bite. It’s a credit to the majority of dogs that most tolerate us as adults let alone younger children who are often unpredictable and are learning and investigating the world themselves, which often includes poking and prodding the family dog. I work with many dogs that have bitten or are close to that stage and their owners are often shocked that it has happened, commenting that they felt like it came out of the blue, but then when we go back through the dogs history, there has been a number of times the dog had been indicating its fearful, frustrated or just uncomfortable. Even if your dog appears to be ok, tolerates the children and hasn’t ever reacted negatively, does not mean they are comfortable.
It’s time for parents to help educate children and themselves and be an expert on what their dog and others are trying to tell us. Recognising the many subtle signals dogs use, way before they have to even growl. Lets all work together at reducing bite statistics to an all time low in children (and adults)!
Signs to look for:
- Dog avoids children (not always as obvious with your own) often taking its self into another room when others visit
- Pulling head back, turning away or backing off, ears back
- Showing the whites of their eyes cautiously glaring, looking unsure
- Yawning when not tired
- Constantly panting
- Tongue flick when no food is present
- Hard eyes like they are concentrating or just staring
- Tense Stiff Body and Tail, with mouth often closed
Common times these behaviours are displayed:
- When being picked up
- When approached especially when resting, eating or playing with a toy
- When patted on the head
- When being cuddled and restrained
- When being dressed up
- When being handled
- When punishing them
- When being forced to do something they don’t want to do
What to do:
- If you have real concerns, seek a qualified dog behaviour advisor please see the following link to find yours http://capbt.org/findabehaviourist.php
- Always ensure your dog has somewhere they can retreat to, where they will not be disturbed.
- Pair the arrival of children with something that the dog doesn’t normally get, a tasty toy or chew but again ensure they have this where they will not be disturbed.
- Help your dog out, if they are giving any of the above signals, redirect the child away from the dog, so the dog does not have to resort to growling, barking or biting to make the child go away.
- Teach children the rules:
- When eating, resting and sleeping leave the dog alone.
- Dog must stay on the ground (No picking the dog up!).
- Adults manage unwanted behaviour in the dog, not children (No telling the dog off).
- No touching the dogs collar, no leading them around by it or pushing the dog around.
- Stroking must be on the dogs terms; ask the child to call the dog over, if the dog comes it probably is happy to be stroked but if it doesn’t come forward, leave the dog alone.
- When stroking the dog pause and see if the dog wants to move away, if they don’t carry on stroking.
- Stroking must be from collar to tail on the side or a scratch on the chest.
- If the children want to engage with the dog, let them hide a few treats or the dogs toy (if he is comfortable with that), around the house and get the dog to “find it”, always under adult supervision.
The Family Dog does some great videos to help children on appropriate behaviour around dogs see stopthe77.com
“What Dogs Like” is available in both paperback and digital in many online book stores follow the link to order yours now http://bookstore.authorhouse.com/Products/SKU-001099911/What-Dogs-Like.aspx