Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dog Bite Prevention

"For example, recently in Maryland a 13-year-old boy was bitten after he was caught leaning over the fence into a person’s yard, teasing the Pit bull contained there. Prior to the bite incident, this boy was warned 3 times to leave the dog alone. The dog owner was having so many problems with people teasing and provoking her dogs that she contacted Animal Control for assistance. Under advisement from the authorities, she ringed her backyard fence with evenly spaced “Beware of Dog” and “No Trespassing” signs. Yet these signs and 3 verbal warnings from an adult witness were still not enough to keep this boy out of the dog owner’s yard. The dog owner has now lost her dog to the authorities and another bite statistic has been entered[...]

Hand in hand with this is the general failure of parents today to teach their children even the most basic rules of canine safety and good manners. Parents encourage their children to approach and touch strange dogs without a single thought of the consequences, not bothering to ask permission of the dog owner involved. They allow children to put their hands through fences to grab at animals inside. This is the epitome of irresponsibility. Fences are there for a reason! To throw things, tease, or poke a fenced animal is cruel and should constitute criminal trespass. No animal should have to put up with strangers grabbing, groping, pulling their tails and ears, and hitting or poking them, yet this goes on and people expect that the animal will be some sort of saint in fur! A parent would be screaming in outrage if a stranger approached and started groping their child, yet they think nothing of doing the same thing to a strange animal."
- Katharine Dokken, freelance writer

A great example of a very much provoked bite coupled with an owner making a significant effort to prevent it from happening, yet ignorance overcomes it all and the dog is confiscated. The second point is something that I fell prey to before I began working with dogs. The more I have learned about dog behavior the more I am astonished that more people are not bitten. Things like reaching your hand in a car window or through a fence to pet an unfamiliar dog are a perfect way to get bitten but people do it every day. Most people have completely unreasonable expectations that their dog should tolerate immediate rough handling from all strange dogs and people. We don't run up to strangers and pat them because we understand that would be a very uncomfortable, bewildering, and possibly frightening experience. Just because it is obvious to you that your intentions are good and harmless, that is not necessarily clear to the dog. Affectionate gestures are not always welcome, especially when they are from someone unfamiliar. Yet people subject their animals to this on a daily basis.

Josephine Trainer, an advice columnist, was asked "When you meet a dog, how should you pet him? I love dogs, but I don't want to get bitten." I feel her reply sums up this subject perfectly: "Pet him just as you would the Queen of England or a Secret Service man." It seems it is mostly in retrospect do we give dogs the respect they deserve: only after one has bitten. It would go a great deal farther to respect their feelings before we create a situation where they feel the need to defend themselves.

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