Creature Feature: Preventing dog bites

18 May

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Family, 1E, May 18, 2011

By Rhonda Owen, Special to the Democrat-Gazette

My 9-year-old dog looks like a little bear or a stuffed toy so when we’re out in public, it’s not unusual to hear a small child yell, “Puppy!” and dash headlong toward her.

I’m quick to step between these youngsters and Simone. While Simone doesn’t have a problem with children, she doesn’t appreciate being grabbed, screamed at and popped on the head, all things that excited kids without “dog manners” may do.

 The body-block technique came in handy recently when a girl about 3 or 4 years old rushed at Simone, shrieking and with hands outstretched. I had to block the girl three times before she settled down enough for me to explain how to approach and pet Simone. Her father, looking embarrassed, thanked me afterward.

I’m always willing to teach a child how to safely approach Simone (or any dog) but the ideal scenario is when a parent walks his child over to us and asks. Then, after getting permission, the parent talks his child through letting Simone sniff her closed hand before gently stroking or petting Simone on the shoulder, chest or side — not the head. Most dogs don’t want a stranger touching their heads.

Simone may not be thrilled by a child’s attention, but she allows it. But not all dogs will react as well. A dog that’s uncomfortable or fearful and doesn’t have what experts call “bite inhibition” may actually strike out and bite.

The American Veterinary Medical Association, which has designated May 15-20 as “National Dog Bite Prevention Week,” says children are the most common victims of dog bites. The association lists ways parents can educate kids about dog bites at tinyurl.com/yb9fzd2.

For more tips, I talked with Pamela Reid, a certified applied animal behaviorist and vice president of the Animal Behavior Center of the American Association for the Society to Prevent Cruelty to Animals. READ FULL ARTICLE

Creature Feature appears each Wednesday in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
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