National Dog Bite Prevention Week

Dog Bite Prevention

April 7-13th is National Dog Bite Prevention Week.  This is a topic near and dear to my heart… because we so often see dogs labeled as bad or aggressive dogs because of their interactions with children.  No matter how gentle and sweet a dog is, it has the potential to bite if put in the right (or wrong) situation.

Let’s say it louder for the people in the back… Good. Dogs. Can. Bite.

It’s our job as pet parents, responsible dog owners, and a veterinary community to know better and do better.  I’d love to share a very personal story with you of how easily and quickly a “good” dog can bite.

A few months ago… our beloved Border Collie/Lab mix, Pax, bit my 4-year-old, Laine.  Luckily it was a warning bite and, though she proved her amazing bite inhibition, I can’t even begin to tell you how easily this could’ve turned into a life-changing event for our entire family if she wanted to do more.

Ultimately, I wasn’t practicing what I preach. My rowdy little was playing in our basement during the insanely cold weather and accidentally nailed our dog in the face with a ball.  I told him to apologize to her, and being a typical 4-year-old, he half-heartedly said “sorry” and kept on playing.  That was a no-go for me, so I told him to stop what he was doing, go ask if Pax was okay, and give her a hug.

Does anyone see a big red flag here?  I should have never encouraged him to give her a hug.

Laine leaned over her, grabbed a big wad of her fur in both hands, and gave her the biggest tiny human squeeze possible – painfully yanking giant fistfuls of Pax’s long hair in the process.  It happened so fast – terrible growling, a quick snap, and a horrific scream from my child. 

It truly is one of a parent’s worst nightmares.

However, how could I have not known better?  My entire career is dedicated to the physical and emotional well-being of cats and dogs, and my entire soul is dedicated to loving and protecting my kiddos.

Dogs are not toys.  Dogs are not stuffed animals.  Dogs are not jungle gyms to climb on.  Tails are not meant to be pulled.  Ears are not meant to be grabbed.  They deserve their own toys and their own space.  Dogs have feelings, and when they are physically hurt, they should not be punished for responding to the pain.  Pax very apparently felt ashamed for her behavior.

I love my kids in ways I never knew were possible and I would do anything in my power to protect them, but I won’t let Pax take the blame for my mistake.  Pax is still the goodest of all the good girls, and she shouldn’t have to tolerate being hurt to retain that title.

As a parent, it’s your responsibility to teach your child how to respect the animals they interact with… and until they are old enough to understand that, it’s necessary to supervise them.

My biggest recommendations to prevent dog bites:

  1. Children and dogs are supervised by an adult at all times.
  2. Children ALWAYS ask before petting someone else’s dog – even if they have pet them before.
  3. Children never approach a dog while it’s eating, has a toy, or is in the middle of rowdy play with another dog.
  4. Children never get INTO a dog kennel with a dog
  5. Children never climb on top of a dog

Not only are children the most common victims of dog bites, but they are also far more likely to be physically injured by a dog bite.  Most dog bites are preventable, and there are so many things you can do at home and within your community to help prevent them.

I feel a great responsibility to not only protect my children (and my dogs), but to raise up tiny humans that share my love and compassion for the dogs that we are lucky enough to share our lives with.  I never want a child to lose that innate love for all animals because of an unfortunate and preventable situation that creates a long-term fear of these amazing creatures.  Let’s do better – our dogs and our kids deserve it.