Kids & Pets – Tips for Preventing Dog Bites

By Suzanne Alicie

As a responsible pet owner, I have to be diligent in making sure that my dog Bear doesn’t bite someone. When we go for a walk most adults know how to approach a strange dog, or at least know better than to run up squealing and jumping around. Children, on the other hand, are naturally exuberant and excited to see a dog and they all want to pet her; she’s big and fluffy, and just draws them in.

Unfortunately, Bear is not very social and really does not appreciate the excitement of children that she doesn’t know. This can lead to heart stopping moments when I’m praying that Bear won’t snap at someone, or that the parents will take charge of their children so that I don’t have to tell the child, “STOP, don’t touch the dog.” Because then children cry and parents get angry because I’ve yelled at their child. They don’t realize that I’m trying to protect them.

I’d rather yell at their child than have my dog cause them to be hurt or even scared of dogs. Sometimes her barks and growls are pretty scary too, and she does get vocal when she feels crowded or threatened. I believe children should have a healthy fear of many things, but especially dogs. This is different from a real fear, and is more of a respect and knowledge of the possibility that the dog could bite.

As parents, it’s important that you teach your children not to approach strange dogs and if you have dogs and children you must teach your child to respect your dog as a member of the family. They have to understand that they could harm the dog if they play too rough, which could also make the dog bite them. Children aren’t mean intentionally, but sometimes they forget that their dog isn’t a stuffed animal and may try to pick him up by his tail or pull his hair while they are playing.

Feeding time is the time to keep your kids away from the dog completely. Even the most well trained dog could give in to instinct and snap at a child who gets too close to them while they are eating. In your own home and with your own children, all it usually takes to prevent dog bites is to accustom your children to being around a dog and respecting the dog’s space.

When you take your dog out, it may be wise to consider a muzzle to protect children from bites and always make sure that your harness, leash and collar are in good shape. An escaped dog running to-and-fro incites people to help you by chasing him. This could lead to strangers getting a bite for their efforts, especially children who think they are helping.

Sometimes Dogs Need Us to Be Understanding

By Linda Cole

When we agreed to foster a friend's dog almost two and a half years ago, we didn't think he'd still be with us today, but he is. Dozer is actually a great dog and he will remain with us for as long as he needs a home. He's loving, smart, and ‘almost’ willing to do what we ask of him. I say almost because it's taken us this entire time to teach him to come to us when he's called. I don't know for sure, but it's possible he was punished in the past when he did come, and that's the best way to teach a dog to not come when called. I understand it can be hard dealing with an independent spirit some dogs have, but people don't always understand how their actions are viewed by a dog, nor do they understand why their dog misbehaves or won't follow commands. Sometimes you have to step back and try to get into the head of a dog to try and see things from his viewpoint. Sometimes dogs need us to be understanding.

Dozer is a handsome and sweet pit bull mix. He loves to cuddle, and when he was a puppy he spent many evenings cuddled up with his owner on the couch. But sometimes things change and for Dozer, the changes began when his owner moved into a house that didn't allow pets. Dozer found himself spending most of his time outside, away from his human. When he was allowed inside, it was to a crate on the back porch. Not because he was bad, but because that was the only solution available to my friend who was trying to figure out how to keep his dog. Dozer was about a year and a half when he came to stay with us.

Change is hard for us, so you can imagine how it can affect a dog, especially one that's sensitive or timid. Dozer came into a home with multiple dogs and cats. He had to learn how to interact with them and us. His routine was drastically different and he was very unsure and confused about what was happening to him. As far as he was concerned, he had been abandoned by the person he loved.

Dozer has a confident independent streak, but he can easily get his feelings hurt. We teach dogs basic commands and reward them with their favorite CANIDAE treats. They reward us by learning how we expect them to behave. Training a sensitive dog requires understanding, calmness, and time for a dog to learn at his own speed.

Dozer is still uncertain how to interact with the other dogs because he wasn't socialized properly when he was a puppy. He prefers being alone and is indifferent with them with no desire to mingle. He likes Keikei, but doesn't understand how to handle her when she tries to dominate him. His best friend is a pit bull/bulldog mix we rescued the same winter Dozer came to stay with us. Zenia is extremely calm, but corrects Dozer if he gets out of line, and it's her calmness that draws him to her. She's the only dog he's comfortable with. He's great with us and loves to snuggle every chance he gets.

In the two years Dozer has been with us, we've made progress with him, but it's been slow and we're still working with him. When working with a sensitive dog, you have to work within his comfort zone and take as long as he needs, otherwise you risk losing any progress you have made. You need a lot of patience, you need to stay calm and consistent, and sometimes, you have to think outside the box when conventional training methods don't work. The most important thing to remember, however, is to never try and dominant a sensitive or timid dog. That will usually result in the dog shutting down, becoming fearful of you or causing him to become aggressive. It's important to control your frustration because he needs your understanding and patience, not your anger.

Getting Dozer to come has been a challenge. We finally discovered that what worked for him was a calm, quiet and encouraging voice, followed up with lots of praise and ear scratches. I sit and watch him when we're outside. He has a gentle nature and a curiosity about everything he sees. When he sees me watching him, he now comes to me on his own for some attention. He isn't asking for a lot from us, just a little understanding.

Cat-Safe Plants

According to the ASPCA’s official database, there are close to 400 plants that are toxic to cats. For pet lovers, that’s a lot of plants to avoid. And what’s especially troublesome is that the list isn’t comprehensive; it’s a compilation of the most common toxic plants. There are more unsafe plants that didn’t make the list. On the flip side, the database names well over 500 plants that are cat-safe.

I point this out because with an internet connection and some awareness, it’s easy to plan a safe garden for your feline friend. Presumably. I have an internet connection and a modicum of awareness, yet our yard is not safe for our cat.

We live in South Carolina, where the sun scorches the earth at least 4 months out of every year. Because of that, gardeners wisely use many drought resistant plants in their yards, including a big offender – sago palms. This plant peppers the landscape of most South Carolina homes, mine included. The previous owners planted one and these palms are not pet-friendly; 1 to 2 seeds can be fatal. 

My dog and my cat love to roll around in the yard and hang out with me while I’m outside gardening. All three of us enjoy that time together. We usually get out there early in the mornings (because of the aforementioned scorching earth), and on the weekends we may spend hours planting, pruning and playing. But I’m always afraid the animals will get into the sago palm. As a responsible pet owner, I plan to replace the plant and I’m researching options to determine what to put in that spot. I want something that is safe, sizeable and evergreen, so I’ll probably go with a Fig-leaf Palm (Fatsia japonica), also known as a Castor oil plant, Formosa rice tree, Glossy-leaved paper plant, or Big-leaf paper plant. 

Keeping a Dog's Paws Safe While at the Beach

Few things are cuter in the summertime than a dog frolicking in the sand and surf, and I can't wait until my own Wuppy gets in on the action. All of that fun can come at a price, though, and I know from past experience that I need to be vigilant about keeping my dog's paws safe while at the beach. Watching out for his tender pads is the least I can do for my furry BFF. So, after deciding on the best sunburn protection for your dog, here are some more precautions to take at the beach:

Check the Area

Finding dog-friendly beaches in your area means more than just 'dogs are allowed.' The terrain should be pet-friendly, meaning there should not be many sharp rocks, shells or other things on the beach that could cut your dog's paws. This is easy enough to figure out by going alone to first scope out the beach and shore before you ever bring your pet there.

Timing is Everything

There's a reason commercials featuring a dog and its owner blissfully running along the shoreline are back-dropped by the colorful skies of a rising or setting sun: the sand is hot during the day. Ever run across the hot midday sand without sandals as a child? That's an intense burning sensation you don't want your dog to experience. Go to the beach during the morning or evening hours to prevent painful scorched paws.

Avoid Hot Coals

Responsible pet owners will steer their dogs clear of any cookouts or campfires. Not only can there be mishaps with the fire or food, but it takes longer for hot embers and coals to go out in the summer.

Tall Grass is Dangerous

Grass that grows knee-high on the perimeter of the beach is notorious for hiding broken bottles, sharp aluminum can bits, hooks and other harmful objects that can lacerate a paw. Not only that, but your dog can pick up ticks and encounter snakes here. The safest bet is to avoid these areas altogether.

Decide if Dog Sandals Work

Some pet owners have had success with protecting their dog's paws from danger on the beach by having them wear specially made canine sandals. Consider this solution with caution and never have your dog wear sandals to the beach if they are not comfortable walking in them. They aren't going to have any fun if they are floundering around like Mosley The Boxer Dog did when he got his new shoes in this funny video.

I have two dogs, Dusty and Cody, that get highly anxious if their feet are messed with at all. Sandals would never be an option for them. As for my Wuppy, he tends to think like beautiful Belle does in this video—sandals make better toys than footwear.

Consider Using a Leash

Even if your beach allows dogs to be off-leash, strongly consider whether your pet is up to the challenge of obeying while around so many stimulating new things and people. Dogs will prefer playing with a little less freedom to not getting to join you at all. Even if your dog is impeccably behaved when loose, you should still bring the leash along for emergency situations. 

Do Dogs Get a ‘Runner’s High’ Like We Do?

To me, there's nothing better than an intense workout to help me feel good. I don't care what the activity is; running, tennis, softball, racquetball, volleyball or biking, they all fit the bill. I like physical exercise because of the ‘high’ it gives me when I'm done. We know how important exercise is for our dogs, but do they get as much enjoyment as we do from an intense workout? Do dogs get the same kind of ‘runner's high’ we get?

Like humans, some dogs enjoy sports more than others. For a high-energy dog, racing around off leash is what they live for. If you've never experienced a runners high yourself, it's hard to describe the euphoric feeling one gets after a strenuous workout. Stress is reduced and you feel on top of the world. According to a recent study, dogs do get that same feeling after a good run or workout.

The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, found that both humans and dogs have a release of mood altering chemicals after running. Research was done at the University of Arizona where they compared humans, dogs and ferrets to see if we shared an endorphin rush, or second wind. They found that ferrets don't get a high from exercise. They aren't exactly the long distance running types. Dogs and humans, on the other hand, do experience a runner's high and it's more intense in dogs than it is in humans. The high happens when neurochemicals activate endocannabinoid receptors in the brain. Scientists also discovered that walking doesn't produce a high for humans or dogs. Nevertheless, a walk around the neighborhood is still good for both of us.

When man and dogs began their evolution journey together, humans had to travel away from home to find food. They needed to be able to push themselves through sore and tired muscles to keep going. Since dogs traveled with humans, they also needed to be able to push themselves when needed and dig down to get a second wind. Without the feeling of euphoria, there is no reward to encourage the body to keep moving. The runner's high is probably one thing that helped hunters locate and stalk their prey and then return home with supper. And since dogs aided in the hunt, they also needed to be able to keep up.

Researchers have understood for years how exercise plays a role in our mood and helps keep the mind healthy. People who work with dogs have also known that exercise is key to keeping a dog's mind stable and sharp as well. They really didn't need a study to convince them, but it is interesting to see how alike humans and dogs are when it comes to feeling a runner's high.

When dealing with behavior problems, consider putting your dog on a good exercise program, after making sure his behavior isn't caused by a medical condition and he's physically fit for a more rigorous routine. Exercise produces chemicals in the brain that can improve mood and give dogs a calming and more relaxed feeling, and for some canines, that may be all they need to change their bad behavior.

Shelters are full of dogs who were surrendered when they developed behavior problems because they were bored and didn't get sufficient exercise. Some smaller dog breeds don't require as much exercise as larger breeds, but all dogs need to get rid of pent up energy to stay healthy in body and mind.

When I was in college, my tennis coach had us run a mile on the first day of practice, regardless of whether we were ready to go a mile or not. After hitting the mile mark, she didn't stop us and told us to dig down deep and search for that second wind. “You'll know when you find it because you'll no longer be tired. You hit a point where you begin to feel the endorphin rush and at that point, the tired feeling stops.”

She was right, and after running the second mile, I was sure I'd have no problem completing a third mile. Yeah, right! I was more than ready to stop at that point, but I felt great, even though I was tired. If a dog gets that same feeling, it's easy to understand why they need a good run. A tired dog is a good dog – but a tired, calm, happy and ‘feeling on top of the world’ dog is even better. This study shows it really is that important to make sure your high-energy dog gets plenty of exercise!