The holidays are about gathering together for celebration. We host parties, attend dinners, travel to visit friends and relatives, dress our dogs up like reindeer (or not) and open our home to guests. Sounds hectic but wonderful! And while our attention may be on catching up, eating and drinking, watching sports and Christmas movies, it is important to remember.....Safety never takes a holiday. Especially when it comes to our children and our pets.
"Children under the age of 10 are most at risk of being bitten by a dog.", according to the article, Children Often Misread Fear in Dogs - Making a Bite More Likely, by Sarah Rose, Senior Lecturer in Psychology and Child Development at Staffordshire University. She points out that children are less likely to recognize emotions in dogs and therefore don't take heed of a dog's warning behavior. She states that researchers studied how to prevent dog bites. The findings showed children can be taught to recognize a dog's emotional state to some degree and children can be taught to recall safety rules. But the researchers also found this did not mean the children were more likely to behave safely around dogs. Apparently when showed photos of fearful puppies, children wanted to hug and cuddle these dogs. Misunderstanding may cause an unwanted nip from an anxious dog. For the entire article click on the link: https://theconversation.com/children-often-misread-fear-in-dogs-making-a-bite-more-likely-118405
"Oh look! He's smiling!!" Before I could stop her, she leaned in to kiss Benji on the head and he bite her on the nose! True story! This was an adult who completely missed what my dog was communicating.
It's no surprise that kids don't understand how to read a dog's behavior organically. Like with everything else they have to learn right from wrong or the consequences can be devastating. Children need to be taught how to treat and act appropriately around dogs or any animal. In a post on the site, Positively, Why Dogs Bite Children: A Lesson in Preventing Dog Bites in Kids, by Sophia Yin an acclaimed Veterinarian and Applied Animal Behaviorist, registered veterinary technician with Sacramento County Animal Care and Regulation, Dianne Fabretti asserts that "people don't know body language of animals [and} don't exhibit proper behavior to the animals so the animal behaves as an animal." “People always want to be in the dog’s face. Kiss them,” says Fabretti. “Even if the dog says he doesn’t like that, they don’t listen. So the dog has to go beyond putting his head down and growling and maybe he goes beyond that and then bites because he is so stressed.” If a dog is fearful, anxious, tired, overstimulated, angered or any combination of these, they will most likely act out if they feel threatened. Dianne goes on to state, "It's all in the education." Hear! Hear!
Adults need to educate themselves on how to treat dogs properly. Children and dogs depend on us to teach them and keep them safe. When we are informed on how to treat dogs and read their behavior, we then need to teach and role model that appropriate behavior to our kids. Here is the link to Dr. Yin's article with an in depth list of tips to teach children appropriate behavior and prevent dog bites: https://positively.com/contributors/why-dogs-bite-children-a-lesson-in-preventing-dog-bites-in-kids/.
The AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) has an excellent post on their website, http://avma.org/, Teaching Children How to Prevent Dog Bites, dated 11/19/19. Timely indeed! The list AVMA provides has some overlap with Dr. Yin's but they also provide further insight and suggestions.
The holidays can be a lot of fun but they can pose challenges as well. Like many of you, we have youngsters visiting over the holidays. We are a 4 dog household. Like you, I know our dogs. They are wonderful sweet dogs and included in our activities. But I also know dogs are dogs. Kids are kids. It is my responsibility as the adult host to make clear to our young guests how to treat our dogs in our home. It is also my responsibility to remain alert and watchful for any concerning interactions between the dogs and kids. I am my dogs advocate. And even though I'm not the parent of the kids, I am also their advocate. I want everyone to have a safe and happy visit.
Here are a few suggestions to use when learning/teaching respect towards dogs:
🐾 Ask permission to pet a dog.
🐾 Offer a hand, palm down, for the dog to sniff.
🐾 Do NOT get in a dog's face! No kissing. No hugging. No squeezing.
🐾 Respect the dog's safe space. (Food bowl, their bed, crate or their mom and dad's bed)
🐾 Do NOT climb on, sit on, or ride a dog. No mistreatment permitted.
🐾 Do NOT chase a fleeing dog or corner a frightened dog.
🐾 Avoid surprising and shrieking at a dog. They have really good hearing.
If you've already taught your kids good dog behavior, well done! Maybe have a little refresher if you are visiting anyone with unfamiliar dogs. And check out the links to the articles above and share. It is good for the kids, the dogs, and the adults. You know what they say it's all fun and games until some winds up in the ER or in a cone. Take responsibility and have a pawsome holiday season!
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