Keep children and dogs safe from each other

A plastic surgeon once told me that he dreads Sunday night phone calls. These are, almost always, children who need their face restored after being bitten by a dog. He said it broke his heart. It also breaks my heart, thinking of the hundreds of instances I’ve seen where the owner said the dog “was great with the kids all weekend, I just don’t know what happened Sunday night”. Of course, we most likely know what happened – the dog was eventually exhausted, lost patience, and the rest is medical history. It’s easy to blame parents, but the fact is that each of us does what we can to protect children and dogs from each other?

We must start by recognizing that no matter how much we love dogs, they can be dangerous. Especially for children whose faces are level with the teeth. Children can also be dangerous to dogs, but they don’t have Def Con 3 level weapons in their mouths.

Estimates of the number of bites in children in the United States everywhere, but most place the number around 2 million. About a quarter of them need medical attention. According to a study published by the NIH, most dog bites to children are in the face, and almost 90% of recipients knew the dog. What if we cut it in half? Possible?

If you work with canine behavior problems, you know how complicated it can be to work with families with dogs and young children. Children love the dog. The dog loves children. . . until they act like children. A spouse wants the dog away; we want the other spouse to leave. Being a behavior consultant is not for the faint of heart, but it is essential work because many bites are preventable.

What if we made 2023 the year to help kids and dogs be safe with each other? We could start with listen to a podcast specifically for families with dogs and young children, or people who work with them, hosted by Justine Shuurmans, owner and founder of The family dog. His guests were Jennifer Shyrock from family pawsand Hélène Saint-Pierre, No monkey business. All three are mothers themselves, are well certified for the job, and specialize in working with families. It’s a quick listen, a great summary of what’s essential for safety, and a window into many great resources on their websites.

One of the favorite points of the episode is that “obedience” has nothing to do with keeping a dog safe around children. Ideally, what is needed is rather a “well-balanced dog”, a dog that is comfortable and relaxed. Whether the dog sits or stays on cue doesn’t matter if three little boys are running around the island in the kitchen screaming loud enough to raise the dead. In my experience, these dogs are worth their weight in gold (because they are rare), and parents need to understand that most dogs don’t have the patience of a saint.

That’s why what’s next on my own list, and just about everyone (including the experts above) is the importance of teaching parents to “read the dog”. Trainers have made huge strides in this area over the past 10 years, as have some veterinary clinics, by posting posters of Red/Yellow/Green body language. There are many resources designed to help people read body language. here is an interactive one by Jennifer Shyrock that I really like. Of course, there is my seminar, lost in translation, which contains photos and videos that are also helpful. There are tons more (tell us your favorite), including the recently released stunning volume, Dogs in translation, by Katja Krauss and Gabi Maue. At the steep price of $79.99, this isn’t a book every dog ​​owner will want, but I highly recommend it to canine professionals.

However, I think we can do a lot more. Every “family dog ​​training or obedience class” should interactively teach reading dog each session. I used to ask participants to rate a dog’s expression after different types of reinforcement or when greeting another dog. Every visit to the vet with young dogs should include a commentary on what the dog’s body language is saying to the vet or vet tech.

Another critical point highlighted in the podcast is the importance of not only “supervision”, but “adult, active, conscious” supervision. Tragedies can happen in a second, and if you’re not on your toes and know what to watch for, then you’re not really supervising. All the moms on this podcast are well aware that no one can be this focused for long periods of time, so Jennifer advises us all to have a plan in place to check your phone, answer the door, or avoid burning the sandwiches at the grilled cheese. Or in his words, “Don’t take a risk, plan ahead.” Check out the websites listed above for ideas on management plans that make life safer and easier with dogs and children.

There’s so much more, including Helen’s mention of the importance of teaching safety around dogs, just as parents teach their children to take their hand when crossing the street or not to touch the burner on the stove. As soon as the children can look around the room, it’s time to start teaching them about dog safety. She loves some of Jennifer’s sayings “Sit on the floor, not the dog” and “One hand enough, two hands too many”.

I wrote about this problem relatively recently (2021), in “Invites to reduce bites”, but I’ll probably write about it every year, because it’s so very important. The tragedies related to dogs and children are not limited to deaths, but include serious injuries, a lifelong fear of dogs, broken hearts and family discord. Is there one thing you could do this week, just one, to make the lives of children and dogs safer? If so, let us know, we will be inspired.

MEANWHILE, back at the farm: Hot, cold, icy, muddy, rainy, no snow. Very typical weather. For March. At least once in a while we see sunshine.

The picture below is for those of you who looked for Skip in my last post in a tangle of trees; this time you can’t miss it. I took the photo with my iPhone, in low light, and zoomed in so Skip was easy to find, hence the poor resolution. But at least you can’t miss it now.

We took down the Christmas tree the Saturday; I will miss its cheerful lights when I walk down the stairs in the morning. But now the sheep can nibble on it.

Below, Swift, aptly named as an early adapter, checking on him while the other sheep watch Skip, who is lying outside the pen to our left.

Skip had just worked them pretty hard up the hill, and got them down to check the tree. Even though it was below freezing, he was still grateful for a patch of snow left. He adores the cold, adores it; no wonder since he has a coat like a polar bear. Too bad for his heart, otherwise he would be a fantastic sled dog – fast, powerful, loves to run. But then, it would take snow. . .

Swift decided to scent the tree before she starts eating it. I don’t see the sheep doing this very often, I don’t know why she felt the need to mark the tree. She could just rub her head, but it seemed more useful than that.

It’s not very pretty out here now. Brown, brown, brown and gray, gray, gray. A little snow would be nice. But the scenery outside makes these tulips below, from Farm with white flowers, extra special. Many more flowers to come in this pot, and check out this Amaryllis on the bottom left! There are two separate buds coming, and each usually has four flowers. I can not wait.

to flowers, and color, and the knowledge that spring is coming. Only 59 days. (Although, uh, usually not very colorful on March 20 around here, but given the weather, who knows?)

Stay safe there, and add, if you can, to this conversation about dog and child safety, this year and all years to come.

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