It’s great to see families out enjoying the open spaces & it’s great to children out playing and enjoying themselves, rather than stuck inside on their computers! We took our 2 nephews to the park with us, one of whom is just 4 and the other a matter of months old.
|Sear with our nephew|
We spent a good few hours in the park, and as usual the dogs always come with us. Whilst we were in the park something really apparent came over, which was actually quite concerning. . . . . .I couldn’t believe the number of young children who were just allowed to wonder, crawl or come running - yes literally sprinting!! - up to our dogs. It’s a recipe for disaster!
In all the time we were at the park, close to 20 children must have touched, stroked or spoken to the dogs – yet not one of the children nor the parents had asked if it was OK to do so. Fortunately our dogs are sociable and friendly, however the children who came over to us certainly didn’t know this to be the case.
Now I totally accept that if the dogs are not sociable they shouldn’t really be taken into such an environment, however the biggest problem, as I’ve said time & time again, is that this would rely on all dog owners being responsible. Sadly not all are.
But, even sociable dogs with responsible owners, there’s still a chance of the dog reacting in the wrong way if a child makes the dog think it’s being threatened. The body language and actions of people is read by dogs, and very often children don't have a clue what their behaviour & body language is giving off to the dogs.
You have to so careful with children & dogs – because in a split second it can be a recipe for disaster.
Take for instance a situation where a child runs straight towards a dog. What does the dog think? “There’s someone running towards us, towards my family. Is this child friend or foe?” The dog then has to decide this his own mind, probably in a slit second – based on the actions & body language of the child – whether he needs to protect his family or not.
Even something as little as the way in which a child puts their hand out to stroke a dog gives off so many messages to a dog - again without the child even knowing what they are doing.
Similarly, the child isn’t able to read the dog’s body language either. Most adults would recognise when a dog is telling you to back off – but children wouldn’t pick up on this. The other problem with children is that they are at eye level of the dog – therefore increases the interaction of eye to eye contact, which to a dog can be a threatening or confrontational sign.
We do lots of work with any children in our family around our dogs. Teaching them how to interact correctly, how to approach dogs. Letting them be confident of dogs & not scared of them but at the same time ensuring that they are aware of their actions & behaviour around dogs.
|Vitally important to educate children at an early age|
It’s ironic that as I write this Blog, I’ve just seen a Tweet that the Mail have just done an article which runs with the headline “Worrying rise in the number of children needing hospital treatment for dog attacks”
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2186433/Dog-bite-hospital-admissions-rise--especially-children.html#ixzz238jptKMM
The under 10 age group is the most ‘at risk’ category & it’s easy to see why.
However, it’s all well & good people creating a frenzie about an “increase in dog related NHS admissions.”
Take this example for instance;
Had a child have run over to us in the park & started stroking Sear while he was looking the other way (which did happen by the way!!). Sear then turns round & knocks the little lad over, causing him to knock his head on the floor & cuts him - which then required stitches.
This could have been counted as a ‘dog related NHS admission requiring surgery’. Potentially the question could also be raised as to whether this dog was ‘dangerously out of control’?
So we need to be really careful about any sort of statistics & how they are used. It's easy to turn a statistic into a headline & newspapers are very good at this! I could reel off a whole list of statistics about a whole host of things and turn them into a story.
But let’s not forget; dog attacks & more importantly irresponsible owners are most definitely on the increase!!
There needs to be a lot more done surrounding the education of dogs – especially as dog ownership is on the increase. As I’ve said before, more needs to be done surrounding dog ownership and the responsibility owners have over their dogs, but not only that, there needs to be more education about dogs generally for children & parents.
It’s vitally important people realise that dogs aren’t just cute, fluffy pets – they can seriously harm people. It is exactly why dogs are fast becoming the ‘weapon’ of choice for hardened criminals. They really can do serious harm to people - especially children.
No matter what dog - even a Beagle - if it's pushed hard enough and to the limit of it's tolerance it will bite. The only difference with different breeds is their tolerance threshold. Sear being a dominant GSD would tell me off quicker than Taylor who's a laid back, happy go lucky Beagle. But make no mistake - I could push Taylor into biting if I wanted to.
Don't ever think or believe your dog will NEVER bite - because it most certainly will.
|Dogs tolerance threshold decreases when unwell|
Will the new dog legislation really educate people in this area and will it stop this type of thing happening? No.
There’s some great sources of information out there for parents to help educate children, and I know of lots & lots of people who actively go out to spread this message. None other than one of the many dog handlers we follow on Twitter.
We follow so many fantastic dog handlers on Twitter, & I know it’s hard to single one out for the work they do BUT. . . I read very often of the work Chappers does at Scouts, Brownies, Schools etc with her wonderful Police Dog Karly.
|The beautiful PD Karly|
This type of education with a Police Dog like Karly is such a fantastic way of not only interacting with children but also allowing the children to practise their ‘dog approach’ on a fully licensed, big, strong, working Police Dog – who in normal ‘work’ circumstances scares the life out of hardened criminals!! It’s such a credit that people like Chappers go out of their way to do this type of work, and it no doubt gives off such a great message to children. They are a real credit to their profession.
Top 5 Do's & Don't
- Never touch, stroke or approach a dog without asking the owners permission
- Always remain calm & quiet around dogs - no sudden movements or screams
- Don't let dogs lick your face & never go to 'hug' them
- Let the dog sniff the back of your hand & never stroke the top of a dogs head
- Never approach a dog from behind
Battersea Dogs Home have some great advice & brochures on their site. Click here...
The Kennel Club also run a Safe & Sound Scheme. Click here...