Dogs are fantastic companions and they make a wonderful addition to any family. But whether you already have children or intend to have babies in the future, the importance of dog safety around children and babies can’t be understated. Even when you think ‘my’ dog would never hurt anyone, the reality is most dogs, if feeling threatened or uncomfortable long enough can and will bite; it’s instinctual protection no matter the size or breed.
According to the American Humane Association here are some statistics on dog bites and children:
- 50% of dog attacks involved children under 12 years old
- 82% of dog bites treated in the emergency room involved children under 15 years old2
- 70% of dog-bite fatalities occurred among children under 10 years old5
- Bite rates are dramatically higher among children who are 5 to 9 years old2
- Unsupervised newborns were 370 times more likely than an adult to be killed by a dog5
- 65% of bites among children occur to the head and neck2
- Boys under the age of 15 years old are bitten more often than girls of the same age2
The purpose of this blog is to educate you on the signs, many times clear signs that dogs display in an effort to let us know they’re not comfortable. The picture below is shared with owner permission. At first glance, most people would see nothing wrong with this interaction. However, this dog is displaying *very* clear signals that no matter how ‘cute’ the pictures may be, it is not enjoying this interaction and situation.
The dog is displaying classic calming signals that a dog gives when he is NOT comfortable. In the top left corner, the dog is licking it’s lips. This is a behavior that is self soothing to the dog and a clear indicator it is uncomfortable.
In the second top right picture the dog is still licking it’s lips but it is also showing the whites of it’s eyes on the side, also known as whale eyes.
In the bottom left hand photo the dog is panting when it is not overheated; another classic stress signal.
And in the final bottom right photo the dog is still panting and now turning it’s head away in a clear display that it is very uncomfortable with the interaction and proximity of the baby.
Should this interaction have been allowed to continue, or continue unsupervised, my guess is that the dog may have nipped at if not outright bit the baby (and most likely been yelled at or punished)! In his mind he was shouting his discomfort with the situation.
It’s crucial we teach our children the importance of greeting dogs properly and treating them with the respect and kindness they deserve. Once you know the language dogs speak, you can understand what they’re trying to communicate. If you’re interested in learning more about dog body language, check out this blog post, because whether you’re a dog sitter in Mesa or just an every day dog owner, education and awareness is key.
2 Centers for Disease Control. (2003). Nonfatal dog bite-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments-US 2001. MMWR, 52(26), 605-610.
5 Sacks, J. J., Sattin, R. W., & Bonzo, S. E. (1989). Dog bite-related fatalities from 1979 through 1988. JAMA, 262(11), 1489-1492.