Somebody has to be the adult. This is one of my favorite phrases when teaching pet first aid classes to the animal loving public. It comes up in almost every preventive situation.
How to prevent heatstroke? Keep your dog inside during the warmest part of the day or don't let them run in the hot sun. Somebody has to be the adult. How to prevent fall injuries or ingestion of random toxic mushrooms on a hike? Keep your dog on a leash while hiking. Somebody has to be the adult. How to prevent dogs from biting children? Do not allow unsupervised activity between young children and dogs. Do not put children into potentially dangerous situations with a dog. Somebody has to be the adult.
Those of you current with social media know what I am talking about. There is the recent story of the 4 year old scattering kibble on the floor for six large Pit Bulls to share. Sarah Palin’s son using the family dog as a step-stool to help with washing dishes. There are countless “Look how cute my baby and dog look!” photos that pop up on our Facebook feeds. I look at these and only see a painful lack of maturity. No one is acting as the adult in these situations and I fear for those dogs.
I fear for the children as well. All of these children are at risk for severe injury from the dogs. In most cases they will heal and suffer from a fear of dogs their entire lives. The dogs? There isn’t any going back from biting a child. No longer trustworthy, the dog (who should have been protected from the situation from the adult in the room) cannot be re-homed and is looking at life in a no-kill shelter or euthanasia for behavior reasons. No one wins.
I get it. Pit Bulls have a reputation that they are struggling to overcome. Having a 4 year old demonstrate her ability to control those dogs looks impressive. But what if? What if the doorbell rang as the girl was pouring the food and one dog jumped causing the others to start a frenzy? What if the little boy using the dog as a step-stool slips onto a paw and squishes a dog toe, getting a quick bite in return? What if the beloved family dog, already stressed out because the weird screaming tiny person is all of the sudden ambulatory, snaps in fear when the child squishes their faces together? Is it worth the risk to get that photo?
Be the adult. Supervise children and pets. PERIOD. Do not punish dogs for growling at children (they’re asking for help and want you to remove the source of their stress). Do not place young children in the middle of feeding time, rough-housing or treat time.… Just keep an eye on everybody! There are amazing veterinary behavior folks out there just begging for the opportunity to educate people on this topic. Offer these resources to your clients, use them yourself, and promote preparation and education. Remember, not every dog is going to be enamored with the new tiny stranger you just brought home. Or that weird doctor who just wants to hug…