Author Topic: Teaching kids about pet safety.  (Read 1090 times)

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LadyL

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Teaching kids about pet safety.
« on: December 25, 2012, 12:13:34 PM »
Yesterday I was at a family gathering at a relatives house along with 12 or so other people, including my 3 y.o. nephew. These relatives have an adult scottish terrier dog. At some point my nephew was playing with the dog, crawling after her around a coffee table, when I heard a growl and then my nephew started crying. The dog had bit him right above the nose :(. He was okay and the bite didn't break skin thankfully, it was just red.

Obviously everyone was upset. The dog is 5 and has never bitten anyone before. It isn't the best trained dog (barks at everything, sometimes has accidents, begs for food, etc.) But it's never been aggressive towards people or other animals. My nephew has been growled at before when he has chased the dog into corners or pulled at her fur (I saw this happen once or twice, months ago).

What surprised me is that no one seemed concerned with emphasizing dog safety to nephew after the incident. From what I saw (I was 10 feet away when it happened) he had chased the dog into a bit of a corner and had his face close to hers when it happened (he was crawling after her). The dog may have felt threatened and my understanding is it's not smart to put your face close to a dogs face, in general. The dog owner did supervise when later, after an hour or so, nephew wanted to pet the dog - thankfully he didn't develop a fear of her after what happened.

If I see nephew teasing or chasing the dog in the future, I will stop him and tell his parents because it's a safety issue. I didn't realize what was going on this time until the dog growled right before biting. There were two other adults 2 feet away when it happened but I guess they didn't realize the dog was getting defensive.

How does your family handle pet safety? Do you intervene when kids are playing inappropriately with other people's pets, or do you leave it up to the pet owner and parents? What were you taught about "pet etiquette" as a child?

guihong

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Re: Teaching kids about pet safety.
« Reply #1 on: December 25, 2012, 12:27:18 PM »
This is one case where I will intervene if others' kids are being unsafe around a pet, or if the animal seems distressed.  I was bit by a big dog right below my eye as a kid, and I could have lost my sight in it.

I don't remember what happened to cause that big dog to bite, but in general, I was taught to ask both owner and animal if I could pet him, give him a toy, etc.  That's how I raised my kids about dogs on leashes, other cats, etc.  They were taught to ask first if they could even feed a fish (many are on fixed schedules).



siamesecat2965

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Re: Teaching kids about pet safety.
« Reply #2 on: December 25, 2012, 01:11:50 PM »
reading this makes me sooo angry, and makes my skin crawl. when i was a child, we had a corgi/something (most likely terrier) mix. a bit high strung, and perhaps not all that good with kids. I know I've told this story on here before, but it certainly bears repeating. It was Easter and Passover, and i was about 5. Playing with the dog, and I must have cornered him, and put my face right in his, and he reacted by biting me. he basically bit my eyelid off; according to my mom, it was hanging by a thread.  so we called the dr., and off we went. He took one look at me, and called an eye dr., and off we went to his house. 

where he put a patch on it, and told my parents he'd meet us at the hospital. where i then had surgery, and over 100 stitches to sew it up.

I cringe whenever I see any child put their face right next to a dogs, no matter how mellow, friendly, etc. the dog may be. And scotties can be a bit high strung as well.  thankfully there was no major injury, but I definitely agree all kids need to be taught how to act around and interact with any animal.

I can say I will, and have, intervened whenever I've seen a child doing something or interacting with a dog that isn't very safe.  if the parents want to get in a snit about it, fine, but I'll be happy to tell my story and see if they still feel I'm overstepping my bounds!

kherbert05

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Re: Teaching kids about pet safety.
« Reply #3 on: December 25, 2012, 03:24:50 PM »
8 years ago, my cousins came over to see my new house. My dogs were in the back yard - but my dog phobic cousin didn't listen. She opened the door and let them in. I had just gotten Abby and Andi and started training them. With her screaming and jumping they got excited. J about 3 at the time climbed up his Mom C.

As a result he became very afraid of dogs and didn't react well around them. C was mad at her sister for opening the door. C repeatedly said that I wasn't responsible because the door had been locked and I had warned them the dogs were there.

A few months later I babysat J. For a while I put the dogs in the back yard - but it was a Houston summer. I told J I had to bring the dogs inside. He had three choices
1. Go to the guest bedroom and close the door while I put them in my room.
2. Stand on the arm chair, while I put them in my room.
3. Stand on the arm chair and watch them do tricks. (I had them for several months at this point and they were on the way to being well trained.)

He picked three. I had them do some of their tricks for him. Then I taught him to give them the commands from the safety of the arm chair. By the end of the visit, he was on the floor with them playing safely. (I did lock them up when his Mom came to pick him up because they still bark at the door.)

Shortly after they went to a friend's house. Their dog charged up to J. Instead of reacting in fear he drew himself up and said "Sit" the way I had taught him to - and the dog sat.  C and her husband were very happy.

They had been working on it with him. I think the combination of it being the dogs that scared him, watching them through the window for a good portion of the day, then being given choices about approaching them that helped him. 
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misha412

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Re: Teaching kids about pet safety.
« Reply #4 on: December 25, 2012, 04:09:10 PM »
The dog reacted out of feeling harrassed and cornered.

The dog owner should have been alert to the dog's mood around the kid or placed the dog out of the kid's reach. The parents should have been teaching the kid the proper way to handle a dog. And the situation should never have been allowed to escalate to the point where the dog felt it had to react defensively.

I am not a parent, but I am a pet owner. When kids come around my pets, I am very alert to what is going on.

I had a kid about 6 come running up to my dog, Dagan, and try to pet him. I physically moved between the kid and my dog because I did not know how Dagan would react to this little loud human charging at him. Fortunately, there were no problems.

Other kids come up and ask if they can pet him and I say yes or no depending on the situation.

When and if I have kids, they will learn from a young age how to handle our pets and animals they might meet in public. Plus, they will not be allowed to harrass the dog or the cats at any time.

figee

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Re: Teaching kids about pet safety.
« Reply #5 on: December 25, 2012, 04:39:22 PM »
Owner of two medium/ large-ish dogs here.  This sort of thing makes me angry because it is frequently blamed on the dog, when the people responsible should be the owner of the dog and the 'owner' of the child (parent, caregiver, responsible adult).  Children here are now taught dog safety, but in situations like this, children need to be explicitly taught not to corner a dog, not to follow a dog, what signals the dog is giving off and how to act appropriately.  I'd be willing to bet in this situation that the dog had given off a multitude of calming signals and 'back off now' signals which the child ignores.  The dog growled and then the dog nipped.  Teeth didn't break skin - good bite inhibition - but objective achieved: annoying human has now gone away.

In my case, around children, my dogs are supervised and I am there to protect my dogs.  This means teaching children how to pat the dogs and where, blocking children from approaching my dogs, stopping them feeding my dogs and, occasionally, removing my dogs from the situation.  Interaction should always be supervised.

Winterlight

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Re: Teaching kids about pet safety.
« Reply #6 on: December 25, 2012, 06:37:12 PM »
My brother and I joke that we were raised by herding dogs. We learned at an early age when to leave the dog alone- I don't think we were ever formally taught, but the dogs were capable of making it clear that we were being pills. Neither of us has ever been bitten.
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Sharnita

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Re: Teaching kids about pet safety.
« Reply #7 on: December 25, 2012, 07:07:02 PM »
Honestly, in our family the dogs do not help because they are the type that would generally love to have the kids crawl after them, pull their heir, etc. because it was love and attention. So the dogs do not run, hide, give back off signs.  We of course tell the kids to be gentle, remove them from the dogs, intervene, etc. The concern we have is that because of their experience they might assume all dogs love them and are good with kids.

Slartibartfast

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Re: Teaching kids about pet safety.
« Reply #8 on: December 25, 2012, 07:16:22 PM »
ANY dog can bite - even well-trained dogs, even dogs which have been explicitly and professionally trained to be good around adults and kids.  Dogs react to signals and "threats" we humans don't normally think about, and as a result people (kids in particular) can get bit unexpectedly.  It's part of being around an animal, and parents need to accept that risk when they allow their children around even the most well-behaved animals.

That said, I don't know that there's all that much teaching a 3-year-old can absorb just yet.  Yes, 3 is old enough to listen to instructions, but directions still go straight out of their head the moment a puppy gets within reach.  Babybartfast is 4 1/2 and we still have to work with her around our dogs - and we've been strict her whole life about how to behave around the dogs.

Older kids can be taught basics of dog safety - present your hand palm-up under their chin before petting instead of letting them smell your fist (which some dogs interpret as the beginnings of a punch), only pet with two fingers (which prevents pulling or grabbing), don't approach a dog showing signs of distress, etc. - but even then the dog owner should be attentive and ready to step in if the dog starts showing signs of wanting to be elsewhere.

mmswm

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Re: Teaching kids about pet safety.
« Reply #9 on: December 25, 2012, 08:13:45 PM »
My last dog, before the one we just adopted, was a 175lb Japanese Akita/St. Bernard mix.  He was very well trained and sweet tempered, but heaven help the person that Jake thought was a threat to his family. As such, I grew accustomed to physically placing myself between my dog and over-eager kids.  He never bit anybody (he died when he was almost 11 years old), but there were a few times when *I* wanted to bite the parents of ill-mannered children who weren't taught how to "make friends" with strange dogs.

Iris

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Re: Teaching kids about pet safety.
« Reply #10 on: December 25, 2012, 08:19:22 PM »
^I agree with this, but I don't think it absolves the parents of responsibility (not that you were saying that, just following a thread in my brain). DD2 had the same problem as Sharnita mentioned. Our dog was amazingly good with her as a child, even when he was a puppy, and it did make it harder to teach her that not all dogs are friendly. I remember one occasion when we were at the dog beach and there were long haired Alsatians there. She decided they were giant teddy bears and took off as only a 4 year old can. Picture if you will a parent (me) in hot screaming pursuit from one direction, a dog owner in hot screaming pursuit from another and two dogs and a girl who really didn't see the problem. Everyone was restrained in plenty of time and there was never any real danger because we were all responsible 'owners', and the dogs really were lovely, but if we had been inattentive ... shudder.

So, to answer your questions, in our family 1) Children are taught almost from birth how to handle dogs, the most basic message for young children being 'never ever touch a strange dog' and careful supervision of contact with family pets; 2) I don't think I've ever experienced it with anyone other than a niece but I'm sure I would intervene if I were concerned about an interaction between a child and a dog; and 3) see (1). I will add (4) we spend a lot of time and effort ensuring that the type of dog we buy is a child friendly breed before we start, if we have children in our house. Now that I think about it, my childhood dog was also very good with small children so really this approach is generational - I know my brothers have the same policies these days, and it's how we were 'trained'.
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misha412

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Re: Teaching kids about pet safety.
« Reply #11 on: December 25, 2012, 08:58:31 PM »
^I agree with this, but I don't think it absolves the parents of responsibility (not that you were saying that, just following a thread in my brain). DD2 had the same problem as Sharnita mentioned. Our dog was amazingly good with her as a child, even when he was a puppy, and it did make it harder to teach her that not all dogs are friendly. I remember one occasion when we were at the dog beach and there were long haired Alsatians there. She decided they were giant teddy bears and took off as only a 4 year old can. Picture if you will a parent (me) in hot screaming pursuit from one direction, a dog owner in hot screaming pursuit from another and two dogs and a girl who really didn't see the problem. Everyone was restrained in plenty of time and there was never any real danger because we were all responsible 'owners', and the dogs really were lovely, but if we had been inattentive ... shudder.

So, to answer your questions, in our family 1) Children are taught almost from birth how to handle dogs, the most basic message for young children being 'never ever touch a strange dog' and careful supervision of contact with family pets; 2) I don't think I've ever experienced it with anyone other than a niece but I'm sure I would intervene if I were concerned about an interaction between a child and a dog; and 3) see (1). I will add (4) we spend a lot of time and effort ensuring that the type of dog we buy is a child friendly breed before we start, if we have children in our house. Now that I think about it, my childhood dog was also very good with small children so really this approach is generational - I know my brothers have the same policies these days, and it's how we were 'trained'.

My dog, Dagan, is a black Lab. Labs are considered one of the best breeds for families. However, every dog is different, it does not matter the breed. It is important to know an individual dog's temperament intimately. Dagan is not the typically happy, go lucky stereotype of a Lab who wants to be friends with everyone.

Dagan was a rescue. We do not know much except he was a stray. It took the Humane Society two weeks to catch him. When they caught him, he was skin and bones and had a chain collar embedded in his neck. They had to surgically remove it.

Today, he is a well-adjusted dog who is happy in familiar circumstances. But, he still shies away from strange humans. Children make him nervous, but he has shown no signs of aggression towards them. But that does not mean I would trust him unsupervised with a small child.

Iris

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Re: Teaching kids about pet safety.
« Reply #12 on: December 25, 2012, 09:45:50 PM »
^I agree with this, but I don't think it absolves the parents of responsibility (not that you were saying that, just following a thread in my brain). DD2 had the same problem as Sharnita mentioned. Our dog was amazingly good with her as a child, even when he was a puppy, and it did make it harder to teach her that not all dogs are friendly. I remember one occasion when we were at the dog beach and there were long haired Alsatians there. She decided they were giant teddy bears and took off as only a 4 year old can. Picture if you will a parent (me) in hot screaming pursuit from one direction, a dog owner in hot screaming pursuit from another and two dogs and a girl who really didn't see the problem. Everyone was restrained in plenty of time and there was never any real danger because we were all responsible 'owners', and the dogs really were lovely, but if we had been inattentive ... shudder.

So, to answer your questions, in our family 1) Children are taught almost from birth how to handle dogs, the most basic message for young children being 'never ever touch a strange dog' and careful supervision of contact with family pets; 2) I don't think I've ever experienced it with anyone other than a niece but I'm sure I would intervene if I were concerned about an interaction between a child and a dog; and 3) see (1). I will add (4) we spend a lot of time and effort ensuring that the type of dog we buy is a child friendly breed before we start, if we have children in our house. Now that I think about it, my childhood dog was also very good with small children so really this approach is generational - I know my brothers have the same policies these days, and it's how we were 'trained'.

My dog, Dagan, is a black Lab. Labs are considered one of the best breeds for families. However, every dog is different, it does not matter the breed. It is important to know an individual dog's temperament intimately. Dagan is not the typically happy, go lucky stereotype of a Lab who wants to be friends with everyone.

Dagan was a rescue. We do not know much except he was a stray. It took the Humane Society two weeks to catch him. When they caught him, he was skin and bones and had a chain collar embedded in his neck. They had to surgically remove it.

Today, he is a well-adjusted dog who is happy in familiar circumstances. But, he still shies away from strange humans. Children make him nervous, but he has shown no signs of aggression towards them. But that does not mean I would trust him unsupervised with a small child.

Well, yes. Point 4 doesn't overrule point 1.
"Can't do anything with children, can you?" the woman said.

Poirot thought you could, but forebore to say so.

sevenday

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Re: Teaching kids about pet safety.
« Reply #13 on: December 25, 2012, 11:24:28 PM »
The time to teach children about pet safety is not AFTER they have been bitten, honestly.  I've seen people complain about how their son is "sooooo scared of dogs since that nasty (insert breed here) bit him last year!"  How about you teach your kid how to properly approach and handle dogs before they ever place themselves in such a situation?  I realize that animals, even ones whose entire life history is known, can and do react oddly to what may be a perfectly normal situation.  Just like people have off days, animals do too.  On top of that, the one and only time my service dog ever nipped me was when he was in the early stages of cancer and I patted him in just the right place to cause discomfort.  It was actually the first thing that clued me in to the fact that he did not feel well, and led to his diagnosis when I took him to the vet.  (He acted apologetic about the whole thing afterward.) 

3 years old is pretty young, lessons need a lot of reinforcement to really 'stick' at that age. (think of toilet training... yeah) A better option would be to prevent the child from interacting with the pet unless both are under tight control (i.e. dog is on leash, owner is right there, parent is holding child and showing them how to introduce themselves, cat has a clear escape route, etc.)   I do fault the owners and parents equally in the situation described in the OP for failing to supervise their charges.  At the same time I do recognize that sometimes it really is a blink-and-something-happens situation.  It can be hard to teach young children about the potential dangers if the only animal you can 'practice' on is mild.  Still, you can do the usual things - teach the child not to run up, to extend a hand for sniffing, to allow the animal to approach them, teach them what the danger signals are (ears back, tail flicking, growling, baring teeth and so on). 

GreenEyedHawk

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Re: Teaching kids about pet safety.
« Reply #14 on: December 26, 2012, 02:37:14 AM »
A few years back I was in PetSmart with Radar, my older sheltie.  A small girl about three years old came darting around the corner, shrieked excitedly (shelties can be sound-sensitive) and threw her arms around his neck to hug him.  It was unexpected; I couldn't get between them in time.  The girl was very VERY fortunate that Radar is as tolerant of a dog as he is, and no one was harmed in the incident.  The girl's father half-apologised with, "She knows it's okay to do that with OUR dog."  I (unfortunately rather coldly) replied, "Then she's old enough to understand that that really isn't okay to do to ANY dog."

I shudder still when I think about it; the outcome with another dog could have been very, very different, and very unfortunate for all involved.
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