Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Keep your dog and your child safe

I started the day ranty and as usual it's caused by Radio 4. I really need to set some sort of 'parental' block on the radio before midday.

I'm ranting but I'm ranting with a 'we must stop this happening again and again" hat on, not with my "judgey" hat on...even if it sometimes sounds like I stray into the Judgemental Tattooed Mummy zone.

This year already I have heard of too many children killed by dogs. Let's face it, one child killed by a dog is too many.

A dog and her child
And it's preventable in almost all cases. I read an online article that clearly spelled out why you can never child-proof a dog. No, you can't. I know people will be reading this and saying 'oh but my dog is good with children." "my dog is a big softy" "my dog would never hurt anyone" and you are all wrong. You are misguided. All you know is that your dog has never done anything wrong yet. Hear me out. You may be lucky, your dog may live it's whole life and never harm a soul, most dogs live lives like that. But it's not because they are magic soft dogs, it's because they are nice dogs with sensible owners.

One thing from the article really hit home " Even parents get annoyed and yell at their children, but we expect 100% good-nature from a dog?!" and that's the thing, we get annoyed, frustrated, angry, we can walk away, yell, send kids to their room, do all sorts of stuff that a dog cannot do; and a kid can annoy a dog in many ways! A child doesn't have to be cruel or naughty. They can fling their arms around a dog, put their face right up in the dogs face, they may wake a dog, squeal, jump, make a loud noise any of a thousand things that children do, can and do, annoy dogs.

Children need to learn to behave well around dogs, and all children should be supervised by an adult that has control over the dog at all times. Children are children until they are in their early teens. Many rescue centres won't rehome a dog to a family with children under 12 for this reason.

New parents need advice on dogs. Not just "introduce the baby carefully to the dog" that's just vague and wishy-washy. New parents need clear firm advice. NEVER leave a dog and baby along, not even for a few seconds. Don't allow a dog on the furniture (at the very least not near the baby/child and never unsupervised) and yes this means your 4 year old can't snuggle on the sofa with Fido while you are in the kitchen making dinner. Yes it's inconvenient. Not as inconvenient as a trip to A&E and a trip to the vet to euthanise a pet. Babies make odd movements, feeble movements, they squeal, they may smell like food, they are not something that many dogs have experience of, they can look like prey, or a toy or just a puppy that needs a shake to make it shut up! Dogs and babies need their own space. Get stairgates, they fit room doorways too! Get a playpen (for either dog or baby!) get a dog crate/cage. Keep either dog or baby with you.

I got angry with the BBC this morning as they went down the route of 'dangerous dogs' and 'banned breeds'. While a bigger dog can do more damage faster than a small one, apart from that they are all still dogs. And before you tell me a staffie...or a lab, or a spaniel, is better than a terrier or a chihuahua  etc etc that is just as dangerous a propaganda! Because you are telling those silly irresponsible owners (oops judgey hat!) that a breed of dog is safe to be left with a child, and no dog is 100% safe. I hate photos of babies astride pitbulls with captions telling me the dog is a big softy. No child should be taught it's OK to clamber over any dog, its not fair to expect a dog to put up with that sort of treatment, you might get away with it for a week, a month, a year but why risk the day when your dog might finally snap.

Here is an excellent article on best ways to interact with a dog , and what not to do! If you have children and dogs, have a read - even if you think you know it all! I had two dogs for 15 years and I didn't know much at the start, there is always loads to learn. I didn't realise for years that dogs tolerate hugs, they don't like them! (see pic below - my daughter got away with a lick rather than a bite when she hugged our dog, we were lucky!)

No dog is 'safe' to be alone with a child or a baby. Any dog whether a particularly silly and friendly one or a slightly grumpy one needs to be under control and in almost all cases only the owner has that sort of control (even an adult can be attacked by dogs they have no authority over) And while it goes without saying really that a dog you have owned since it was a puppy is more likely to obey you, it's worth remembering that all dogs need to be trained! So Rule 1 is ensure you can control your dog and Rule 2 is ensure you are there when it's with a child. If you can't be there, keep them apart.

Dog gets in a sneaky lick 
I love dogs, and I love children and I think that dogs are great fun to have in a family. Enjoy your dogs, look after your kids, have fun but play safe.

I really really don't want to read about another child or baby being killed by a dog, not this year, not any year.


  1. Excellent piece, every parent considering getting a dog should read this. Very very few dogs re homed from Battersea (where I volunteer) are considered suitable for families with young children. For good reason.

  2. Excellent piece well put across. I have dogs &cats all rescue pets. Whilst they are lovely etc my gid children aren't allowed near unsupervised. Nor for that matter are the adults.

  3. Excellent piece. Well said! No dog can ever be certain to be 100% safe around children, no matter what breed. I get really angry when I see people posting pictures of kids clambering on dogs and you can see the dog is not happy but people don't realise that.

  4. I agree with most of this, except the this"dogs don't like hugs" bit. Freya hugs, she hops on to my bed, lifts my arm and sort of commando crawls into a "hug" position, complete with front paws on one shoulder. She really wants hugs.

  5. I had to take my friend and her dog to the vet to be put down because he had bitten her daughter's ear. It was horrible. It's not fair on either the dog or a child to be put in that situation.

  6. Great post and important advice. I have always been super cautious with our rescue dog - he lives in a kennel and run outside in the day while the kids are around. And really hate those parents who don't show the same respect and encourage their children to pet him. Just wish parents would wise up - no dog is child proof. Don't risk it!

  7. We don't have a dog. I had a dog as a child and it bit my cousin and had to "go away to live on a farm". My son adores dogs. I have taught him to approach dogs cautiously to always ask the owner before approaching. He is amazing with this "Excuse me, may I pat your dog please?" he asks politely, at just 4 years old.

    I love dogs, and I love kids too. I totally agree there's no such thing as a dangerous breed. All dogs are potentially unpredictable as are humans.

    We will get a dog, but it won't be for a while yet.

  8. Well said. Am amazed how many people let their children run upto our dog. Our dog is soft, sappy and used to boisterous children. Would I ever leave her alone with the children? No. Unfair on the child and the dog. Just not worth the risk

    1. yes it's not just the child, it's unfair on the dog, takes a few minutes of preparation and thought is all. And yes, ask before greeting a dog, I'm sure that was something parents used to say, now it's assumed all dogs are ok with a kid in their face or they are a 'dangerous dog', it makes me angry.

  9. This is a bloody brilliant post - I've just shared it on Twitter, hope you don't mind!

    My absolute nightmare is that I'll fail to protect my perfect sweetheart of a dog from the twins, and that in a moment of madness she'll decide to protect herself. It scares the life out of me. She is so sweet and easy and we've spent a lot of time desensitising her to children but I have no doubt that she'd snap if pushed far enough. I'm okay with that - it's a logical, predictable and healthy response - and the onus is on me to make sure that everybody is kept safe.

    We actually love it when children come over to (gently) pet her, particularly when they're encouraged to ask first. I've been horrified at the number of parents who seem to treat an out-and-about dog as a public babysitting service though, or worse, stood by whilst their children have shrieked at her, flapped their coats at her or flung themselves right at her.

    1. Totally agree with you and thanks for sharing.