Many times I hear “My dog is good with children” (perhaps with your children but not the other), “My dog will not bite” (any dog will bite under the right conditions), and “my dog is a good dog” (even good dogs will bite if they are tased, hurt, abused or put in a bad situation).
The reported dog attacks in NZ over the past few weeks, are certainly a source of concern, but are the dogs actually to blame? It is easier to blame the dog than the owner or the person who was supposed to supervise because they can’t stand up for themselves and tell their side of the story. Dogs don’t just bite – most bites are caused by inappropriate behavior by adults and children as well as people who not see and read warning signs of the dogs. Dogs pay the price, too often, with his life.
While media report and emphasize these instances may be good, they fuel the fire, but we “the public” very rarely hear the full story.
There are in my opinion 3 things that have greatly contributed to the increase in dogs biting and – attacks in both children and adults over the last few years. 77% of dog bites originate from the family dog or a friend’s dog, and a good part of the victims are children. Many – not all – of these bites are due to inappropriate greetings and play.
- Human compulsiveness.
People feel too comfortable and do not see or are unaware of/negligent to the potential dangers of living with a dog. Dogs have been placed on a pedestal ; too much is expected of them. In any given situation they must act and be behaved and be good dogs. As if human would do the same if the roles were reversed. Dogs are not humans they do not think the same as us and must be treated with respect and understanding. After all, we live with an animal that can move faster than us in every way and who has teeth that can do lots of damage and in many cases is stronger than us. WOULD people be so complacent if I did not talk about a dog but another animal – say a tiger, a horse or even a cat -?
- A she’ll-be-right attitude is quite self-explanatory.
- People looking, but not seeing.
There is a lack of supervision and supervision today means taking a quick look at what the dog, children or other adults are doing while talking on the phone. Working on the computer, having coffee with friends perhaps even in another room, going for a walk with your dog and not paying attention to what is going on around you The list is endless. If you can’t watch 100% of the time, it is relatively easy to remove the dog or person or persons from the situation, and if you are walking, leash your dog!
Then you are not viewing if your dog is, is harassed, harassed, bullied or is frightened, stressed or distressed or is concerned if they look and not see. All animals speak to us (including dogs) if we choose to watch and listen. We humans will not tolerate being teasing, harassing or bullied, therefore why should dogs? At times we can feel scared, stressed or distressed and what do we do? We seek help, comfort, support, therefore why not help, comfort and support for dogs? After all, they are supposed to be the best friend of man, so dog owners need to become teachers so they can teach others, including non-dog owners, how to behave, communicate and act when in the company of their dog or any other person.
What dogs require of us also? They need love, boundaries, rules, guidance, protection, consistency and a safe place to call their own, a place they can go to take a break, to get away from children, you, your friends, other dogs and just chill out. They need to spend time daily with them. They need you to understand them and stand up for them when they are unhappy, stressed, scared or when they are teasing, harassed or bullied. They need you to look and not to be complacent and not to be afraid to say NO to that child or adult or even another dog owner if their behavior is unacceptable. Remember that dog owners it is ok to say “NO”
Never forget – it’s your dog, your house, your rules and when you leave your rules is your dog
If we want to turn the tide and reduce the number of dog bites/attacks, it might be time that all dog training/behaviourists, club trainers, vets who run puppy schools, private trainers, SPCA, rescues, schools and pups get on board and provide basic dog safety information to their clients, children and parents. Regardless of whether or not they are dog owners or not, all people need to know how to behave and act in the company of dogs.