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.