In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had some bad experiences while out walking my dog and heard of some other horrifying experiences involving children and other people’s dogs. As a dog owner, my worst nightmare is losing my dog, or be taken away because he has a bad reaction and nips, bites, or attacks a child. My dog is my child and I’m sure many other pet parents would agree with that. We have a different relationship with our pets and even if our dog would never bite us, there is always that fear that a child approaching the wrong way or surprising our dogs may result in a different reaction than we see in our four walls at home.
I have had good experiences where parents are eager for their children to learn properly how to meet a dog and I’ve also experienced parents who don’t care if their child is being disrespectful towards a dog. These parents never discipline nor apologize for their child’s actions, and when a child is bitten, it’s the dog owners that are punished.
One of my friends had an awful experience at her doggy daycare. It was the end of a warm day so she had left the front door open. All the dogs, but hers, were gone and there is a 4ft latched gate that leads into the play area so dogs are segregated from the front. “I was upstairs in my office that overlooks the entire daycare—I can see and hear everything from there”, she told me. Outside, a mother told her daughter to “go see the dogs.” The daughter ran into the store, unlocked the gate and ran inside the doggy area. “I wasn’t sure if my elderly lab was laying down there at that moment, or out back having a potty break. He will bite if he feels at all threatened or startled. I was surprised to see this girl charging straight through a latched gate running into the play area. I yelled at her ‘GET OUT! YOU CAN’T BE IN HERE!’. There was no chance to say anything else — she was back in her van crying and mom drove away”. Luckily, the dogs weren’t around, but something very serious could have occurred. No stern, “That was inappropriate sweetie,” was said to the child.
My friend was somewhat attacked on Facebook when she shared this story. Some people thought that she should have seized the moment and taught this kid a valuable lesson, but is that really her responsibility? “I believe, if given the opportunity, we as dog owners are responsible for helping parents teach their kids how to act appropriately in certain situations. There are just too many clueless [people] out there; someone needs to step in where parents fail”.
I’ve asked Melissa, of The Thirties Grind, to give me her opinion on the topic. How do mothers keep their kids safe, and what can dog moms and kid moms do to work together to keep both parties safe? I asked because I know that in the past nearly 20 years, 85% of all fatal dog attacks are to children under the age of 12. Of that 75% were left alone with the dog. These statistics are disgustingly scary, why are young children being left alone with animals?
What can we do? Early prevention is the key here. Some of my followers may have read about my trip to the Vancouver SPCA this summer. The whole point of that trip was so that the SPCA could educate children on how to act around animals. More programs like this need to be in place. Schools should invite rescue volunteers to classrooms with dogs to teach these highly critical skills. Parents should involve their children in after school initiatives like volunteer dog walking at a local shelter or rescue. I really believe programs like these can save the lives of both children and dogs. Both can be unpredictable in exciting or stressful situations. As mature adults, it is our collective responsibility to work together and have the well-being of our counterparts in mind at all times when out and about, and even in our own homes. Children should never be left alone with a dog, and dogs should never be ambushed by children. Fatal dog attacks on children would no longer occur if we played smart together.
For Melissa’s take on this subject please visit her website, The Thirties Grind, or check her out on Facebook or Twitter. I can’t thank-you enough Melissa for co-blogging with me, not one more child needs to get bitten by a good dog, and not one more good dog needs to be euthanized.