SMOOCH YOUR POOCH IS BAD ADVICE
Book raises risk of kids being bitten. Dog bite statistics reveal children are most often bitten in the face when trying to kiss a stranger’s dog.
August 2016 update | TheDogPress DogSense ~ Staff
A new book puts kids at risk of being bitten by dogs. Nothing is sweeter than a loving child-pet relationship but American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) warns of the dangers face-kissing poses to kids.
It’s cute, innocent, and natural but while most kids have a special bond with pets, the AVSAB says children under the age of 10 are among those most commonly bitten. Dog bite statistics further reveal that children who receive medical attention are most often bitten in the face.
Face bites are not only the worst bite, potentially inflicting the most scarring but they are the frequent dog bites sustained by kids.
This is due to the proximity of a child’s face to the dog’s level, especially when children quite naturally try to kiss the dog.
Many factors contribute to dog bites in children, and a primary problem is kids hugging and kissing non-family dogs. Consequently, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) strongly advises that parents avoid purchasing the recently released children’s book Smooch Your Pooch for their kids. The book recommends that children “Smooch your pooch to show that you care. Give him a hug anytime, anywhere.” The Veterinary Society says such information can cause children to be bitten.
We couldn’t agree more. Even the family dog can react instinctively to a child grabbing the head, jowls, or ears in order to plant a big kiss on the dog’s nose. If the child persists (as youngsters are prone to do) the dog can feel trapped, become confused and snap at the child.
Says one AVSAB member, Dr. Ilana Reisner, whose area of research is dog bites and children, “Although some dogs are not reactive about being kissed and hugged, these types of interactions are potentially provocative, leading to bites.”
In a study published by Reisner and her colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, records of bites to 111 children were examined. Says Reisner, “We looked at dogs that had bitten children and found that most children had been bitten by dogs that had no history of biting. Most important here,” says Reisner, “familiar children were bitten most often in the contexts of "nice" interactions—such as kissing and hugging —with their own dogs or dogs that they knew.”
The study also found that in addition to biting when they are hugged, kissed, or the person leans over the dog, assuming the dominant position, dogs are reactive when approached/touched while resting, when they have anything they consider "high value" (food, toys, a favorite blanket, or even the parent), and when they are hurt or frightened. These are the types of situations where children who have read Smooch Your Pooch may seek to interact with their dogs.
AVSAB recommends that children play with dogs in a more productive way such as by playing fetch or training tricks. They suggest children avoid approaching or interacting with dogs who are lying down, resting or sleeping. Parents should teach children to interact with the dog only when the dog approaches willingly.
Families with children are encouraged to begin to train their children to train the family dog at an early age. Children like to be the boss and with careful supervision, having the child teach the dog simple control-commands can be rewarding for all.
Dogs are easily trained to come when called by having treats ready to reward the dog for approaching. It is valuable training for the child as well as the dog.
It is the adult's job to begin proper leash training to establish control and basic obedience. This helps the puppy find his proper place within the “pack”. When the puppy has been taught to walk without pulling or forging ahead, and to sit on command, he will more clearly understand that all humans, regardless of size, are dominant.
The flip side of the coin is to closely supervise children of all ages until you are absolutely convinced the child respects his new best friend. Most bites are in fact provoked, from the dog’s point of view. A small child may strike the dog in frustration when it doesn’t let go of a toy or in some other way, “disobeys” the child who is trying out dominance skills. A growl and snap that would signal a canine playmate to “back off” can result in injury to a human child.
We thank the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior for noting the bad advice contained in the Smooch Your Pooch book and for helping TheDogPress.com in alerting parents.
Reference Bite Information: Nat. Dog Bite Statistics and state laws for dog bite victims, dog owners, lawyers.