Dog Bite Prevention Month–Be your dog's voice.

For my first post in my DBPM series, I want to talk about something that seems so obvious but is somehow often overlooked.

It must feel like I harp about this but it has again reared its head–BE YOUR DOG’S ADVOCATE. Yep, it’s that phrase again.

If more people made decisions with their dogs in mind and ‘checked in’ with their dogs during various situations, many dog bites could be prevented. Instead, there are many people who set their dogs up to fail by putting them in situations where the dogs feel uncomfortable. Dogs who are not comfortable in a situation are more likely to bite compared to their comfy counterparts.

It’s OKAY if your dog is not perfect, it’s OKAY if your dog is concerned around men, it’s OKAY that your dog is afraid of kids on bikes. You don’t have to hide your dog’s ‘issues’ by pretending they don’t exist and letting anyone pet your dog or taking him/her to places that they don’t like. It’s okay to have a dog who is not perfect–this is NOT to say that the issues should go unaddressed but that pretending the issues don’t exist is dangerous.

If you know that your dog is uncomfortable around children, do not put him/her in situations where he/she will have to interact closely with children. If you know your dog is not comfortable around other dogs on leash, perhaps going to doggie events with hundreds of other on-leash dogs isn’t right for you.

I went to a large dog event once and while I was there, I happened upon a dog who was wearing a grooming-style muzzle (the tight fitting nylon muzzle). The dog was fighting it tooth and nail and it was a warm day so I was concerned about the dog’s risk of overheating. I try not to offer unsolicited advice, but in this case, I felt the safety of the dog was at risk wearing that type of muzzle in the heat. So I approached the family and apologized for the unsolicited advice but mentioned they may get better results using a wire basket muzzle because it allows the dog to pant and to drink and is generally more comfortable for the dog. Anyhow, through our conversation they mentioned that the reason he was wearing a muzzle was the he “didn’t like” men or children but they wanted to bring him so he could ‘socialize.’ I mentioned that maybe a good trainer would be a place to start to help him get over his fears. I was drawn away by someone at my booth but watched as the family walked away with the dog scratching at his face trying to get the tight muzzle off.

I saw the dog a few hours later with his muzzle off mingling in the crowd–the dog was tolerating the experience but not loving it as long as no one was really paying him any attention. I got an eerie feeling in my gut about the situation and sure enough, a short while later there was a commotion across the way and this dog had bitten a child. Now, I didn’t see the incident but I heard that they allowed the child to pet the dog because, “he was doing so well” and the dog bit. This bite was 100% preventable had the family made decisions in the best interest of their dog and advocated for their dog’s wishes instead of making decisions based on their WANTS, the bite would never have happened.

There was a highly publicized bite incident last summer in my area. A family brought their Rottie (falsely reported as a pit bull) to a fireworks display and at some point during the night a child in a stroller right next to the dog put his hand in the dog’s face and the dog bit. Do you think the Rottie, with very sensitive ears, wanted to be at the fireworks display? Do you think it was a low-stress environment? Do you think the BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM of the fireworks made the rottie feel comfortable? If the family had thought about how their dog would like (or not like) the fireworks display, they would have prevented a dog bite. I applaud them for wanting to include Fido in more parts of their lives but they failed to really consider him in their decision making process–what did HE want?

Don’t be afraid to tell people that they cannot pet your dog, don’t be ashamed to say that you cannot bring Fido to the doggie parade because it would overwhelm him, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to keep your dog muzzled or secured in another area when people come visit. These are problems that should be addressed with the help of a skilled trainer or behaviorist–flooding a dog and putting them in situations they are unprepared to handle is dangerous for everyone involved.

By advocating for your dog you are keeping him/her safe and keeping the people around him/her safe.

  1. I couldn’t agree more! While I know that Rufus adores children, if a tall man is accompanying said children, I do not risk having them come to greet him. He has never bitten anyone ever, but his discomfort is noticeable and that’s just not worth the risk.

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