Do you remember your first childhood dog? Do you remember how he would wait by the front door for you to come home from school? He would playfully bark at the mailman and wag his tail at the smell of your mother’s breakfast bacon. You recall your painful goodbye as he passed away at the veterinarian’s office. Your pup was your best friend, providing un-paralleled, unconditional love.
Recently, your own child has been begging mercilessly to add a dog to your burgeoning family. And while you want your son or daughter’s childhood to include dog ownership, as yours did, frequent news reports of dog bite attacks make it hard to give in and say yes to the plea.
Unfortunately, young children, infants, and the elderly fall victim to violent dog attacks far too frequently. The aftermath of these attacks can include severe injuries, scarring, and disfigurement. . Because of the amount of dog-attack fatalities, over 700 cities have now enacted breed specific laws to protect the general public. Pit bulls are notorious for their deadly maiming and ferocious attacks. Yes, some dog breeds are more dangerous than others, but dog breed isn’t the only determining factor of an attack. According to a recent study, owner behavior can be a predictive factor in whether or not a dog will attack.
According to the study, training techniques and methods can heavily influence how dangerous a dog will become. Puppy classes typically decrease stranger anxiety, and positive reinforcement training methods reduce the possibility of aggression. Positive reinforcement training methods would include providing rewards for good behavior. The dog would learn good behavior by the continued reinforcement of rewards, such as toys and treats. The earlier you train a dog in these ways, the more so you can combat aggressive tendencies.
When you and your family decide to add a dog to your family, you can consider this type of training, as well as what dog breed. We do not necessarily have control over the behavior of strange neighborhood dogs or pups found in a dog shelter. After watching countless ASPCA and Humane Society commercials, rescuing a dog from your local pet shelter seems to be a novel idea. But while you are giving a dog a better home, you don’t know what their previous home was like. How they were treated and trained in their past home will affect their disposition, despite their safe new abode. While the puppy may seem meek and loving in the shelter environment, a new home can trigger stranger anxiety, sending your once beloved animal into frenzy.
We also don’t know how neighborhood pups are treated and trained. While they seem friendly enough in passing, in reality, they could have dangerous tendencies. They could be poorly trained or not even trained at all. They could be abused, taunted, or teased. Perhaps the dog is not properly fed. It is always best to assume the worst, even when the dog seems approachable.
How do we explain these risks to children without sparking an irrational fear? You don’t want your child to be afraid of all dogs, but you also want them to approach the animals with precaution.
The American Veterinary Medical Association provides a few tips about how to avoid dog bites. Here are a few good talking points worth discussing with your young children.
- Avoid Unknown Dogs: Explain that while some dogs are friendly, it is best to assume that unknown dogs aren’t. Do not pet a foreign dog, especially when it is not with his or her owner. Be sure to tell your parents if you see a dog running around without a leash. The parents can call animal control or start the search for the pup’s owner.
- If You Want to Pet the Dog, Ask: If you see a dog and owner, be sure to ask their permission to pet their dog. The owner should know if the dog is dangerous or not. The owner could also provide suggestions on how to pet their pup. Perhaps they love it if you scratch behind the ears or rub the belly. If the owner says that you cannot pet the dog, whether it is because they are a service dog or are dangerous, obey their wishes. They aren’t saying no to be mean. They are trying to protect you, which ultimately protects themselves as well.
- When Petting, Don’t Pet Face or Pull Tail: If you do pet a dog, especially one that is not your own, avoid petting the dog near his or her teeth. Don’t taunt the puppy, either. Don’t pull their tail or do anything else that a dog typically would not like. When you start to pet them, start cautiously.
- If a Dog Attacks, Don’t Run: If a dog approaches you in an aggressive way, stand still like a tree and do not provoke them anymore. Running away will make them want to chase you and most likely provoke them even more.
Hopefully by having this discussion with your children, you can avoid serious injury when it comes to dogs and other animal induced injuries, i.e. horses, cattle. At Schlapprizzi Attorneys at Law, we help people who have been severely injured from dog bites. If you have any questions about how to protect your family from this trauma or if you or your loved one has experienced it first hand, be sure to contact a St. Louis dog bite injury lawyer office. It’s crucial that you treat the threat of dog bites quite seriously. Whether you’re a friend or foe of animals, pet safety is important for everyone to learn, young and old.
Click here to read more about dog bite injuries and what steps to take after you or your loved one has been attacked.
To read about victims of dog bites and learn more preventions tips, be sure to check out Dogbites.org.
Photo Credit: greg westfall. via Compfight cc