Well, I feel like I am a broken record saying the same thing over and over again, when it comes to Dog Safety and how to stay safe around dogs.
The reported dog attacks over the last few weeks here in NZ, are certainly a cause for concern but are the dogs really to blame? Easier to blame the dog than the owner or the person who was supposed to be supervising because they can’t stand up for themselves and tell their side of the story. Dogs don’t just bite, most bites are the caused by inappropriate behaviour by adults and children as well as people not seeing and reading the dogs warning signs. All too often the dog pays the price, with its life.
77% of dog bites come from the family dog or a friends dog and a good percentage of the victims are children. Many, not all, of these bites stem from inappropriate greetings and play as well as, dogs being generally put in, bad situations
While it may be good the media report and highlight these instances they fuel the fire but we “the public” very rarely get to hear the full story.
In my opinion, there are 3 things which have greatly contributed to the rise in dog bites/attacks over the last few years in both children and adults. 77% of dog bites come from the family dog or a friends dog and a good percentage of the victims are children. Many, not all, of these bites result from inappropriate greetings and play.
1. Human Complacency.
People feel too comfortable & secure and don’t see or are unaware/oblivious to the potential dangers living with a dog can bring. Dogs have been put on a pedestal, too much is expected of them. They have to act and behave and be good dogs, in any given situation. As if humans would do the same, if the roles were reversed. Dogs are not human they don’t think the same as we do, they need to be treated with respect and understanding. After all we are living with an animal that can move faster than us in everyway, who has teeth that can do a lot of damage and in many cases is stronger than us. If I were not talking about a dog but another animal, say a Tiger, Horse or even a Cat, would people be so complacent?
2. A she’ll-be-right attitude, which is quite self explanatory
3. People looking but not seeing.
Lack of supervision, supervision for many these days means taking a quick glance around at what the dog, kids or other adults are doing while chatting on the phone. working on the computer, having coffee with friends maybe even in another room, going for a walk with your dog and not paying attention to what is going on around you. The list is endless. If you can’t be watching 100% of the time, its quite easy to remove the dog or person/people from the situation, and if you are out walking, leash your dog.
By looking and not seeing, you are not seeing if your dog is, being teased, harassed, bullied or is or is frightened, stressed or distressed. All animals talk to us including dogs, (via body language) if we choose to watch and listen. As humans, we won’t tolerate being teased, harassed or bullied, so why should dogs? As humans, we may feel frightened, stressed or distressed at times and what do we do? We seek help, comfort, support, so why not help, comfort and support, dogs. After all they are supposed to be mans best friend, so dog owners need to become educators so they can teach others including non dog owners, how to act, behave and communicate, when in the company of their dog or anyone else’s.
So what do dogs need from us? they need love, boundaries, rules, guidance, protection, consistency and a safe place to call their own, a place they can go, to have a break, from kids, you, your friends, other dogs and to just chill. They need time spent with them on a daily basis. They need you to understand them and stand up for them, when they are unhappy, stressed, frightened or are being teased, harassed or bullied. They need you to look and see and not to be complacent, and not to be afraid to say NO to that child or adult or even another dog & owner, if their behaviour is unacceptable. Remember, dog owners its ok to say “NO”
Always remember, its your dog, your house, your rules and when you are out its your dog your rules.
These days there is a lot of information about dog safety out there and there is no real reason why people should not be, well informed. I often hear “my dog is good with kids” (maybe be good with your kids but not someone else’s) “my dog won’t bite”(any dog will bite given the right set of circumstances) “my dog is a good dog” even good dogs bite if they are teased, hit, abused or put in a bad situation.
I personally hand out dog safety information along with the training FAQ sheets to all my clients. If they are new expectant parents I cover that also. I find myself now teaching people how to protect themselves when they are out walking, with or without their dog, from unwanted attention from off leash dogs, which in reality, I shouldn’t have to be doing.
If we want to turn the tide and reduce the number of dog bites/attacks maybe its time that all dog trainers/behaviourists, training clubs, vets who run puppy schools, private trainers, SPCA, Rescues, Schools and Plunket get on board and provide basic dog safety information to their clients, children and parents. All people, (children & adults)) whether they are dog owners or not, need to know how to act and behave when in the company of dogs. All dogs speak to us, if we choose to watch and listen.