Dogs can be dangerous, even lethal. That’s why it’s up to parents to train their kids to be wary around Fido, even if he's the family dog.
Please accept my apologies for using such a graphic and disturbing photo below. While the toddler survived, it's images and headlines like these that scare the living daylights out of parents. The unfortunate truth is, it happens all the time. I’m not the first on The Stir to say it and I certainly won’t be the last:
Statistics show that most dog attacks happen at home or in another familiar locale, and 77 percent of the time, that dog belongs to the victim's family or a friend. More alarming still, when a toddler is the victim, the family dog is responsible 47 percent of the time. The boy in this picture was attacked by his grandmother’s dog. He was stroking him and then … well, he’s lucky that he survived.
In a report released by the Task Force on Canine Aggression and Human-Canine Interactions by the American Veterinary Medical Association, researchers reasoned, “Children’s natural behaviors, including running, yelling, grabbing, hitting, quick and darting movements, and maintaining eye contact, put them at risk for dog bite injuries.”
Plus, researchers add, “Proximity of a child’s face to the dog also increases the likelihood that facial injuries will occur.”
After an off-leash dog approached my son (who loves dogs … like, obsessively) put his entire mouth around his hand and took the piece of bread he was eating, I nearly had a heart attack. For whatever reason, dog owners in my city have no qualms with allowing their pups to roam free. Retrieving their dog’s caca is a scarcity as it is, and it’s not an unusual sentiment to consider neutering an affront to a dog’s masculinity.
Therefore, I do my best to keep my son away from dogs. This summer, though, I had the opportunity to expose my son to my sister’s dog. There was one disturbing incident, wherein Coco the dog regurgitated rabbit entrails on our bed, but it was an overall positive experience for all of us.
Here’s what I learned about training my child to be around dogs:
1. I taught him that dogs have the same needs as we do, like food, water, sleep, caca, and love. In short, they have feelings and we must be especially careful not to tread on them.
2. I talked to him about the dog’s body language, as in “I’m pretty sure Coco wants to be alone with that rabbit.”
3. Whenever he started testing Coco’s resolve, even though she never showed the slightest inclination to hurt my child, I removed him from the situation, no matter what.
4. And anytime we see a dog roaming the streets near our house, I tell him loud and clear, “We don’t know that dog. We must not touch that dog.”
If the owner is near, I say it extra loud. Maybe they’ll figure out that just because their dog happens to be their best friend doesn’t mean he’ll be a best friend to my kid.
How do you talk to your toddler about dogs?