Last week was National Dog Bite Prevention week and, as if on cue, I was faced with an urgent phone call from a woman whose family had adopted a dog several months ago from the humane society. The dog had just “bitten” her four-year old son. I put “bitten” in quotations because the dog did not actually bite her son, he scratched him, but fact is we don’t know exactly what happened because she had her back turned to them at the time. This is why it’s so important for parents to not look away from their child and pet’s interaction even for a second. It’s very easy to get complacent when you have a pet that seems very easy-going and tolerant of everything in their environment. The very important key to remember here is that every animal has the capability and capacity to bite or cause injury to a person. Many animals will never do so in their entire lifetime even under extreme circumstances, but it only takes one time to do severe damage if they happen to be pushed past their threshold.
Fortunately after reviewing the circumstances of this isolated incident, I believe the dog showed immense bite inhibition. Provided the parents are more diligent about watching their children so that they’re not hugging a very tired, possibly frustrated dog’s neck, this will probably stay an isolated one-time incident. It is also very important for people to learn dog body language and signs of stress or appeasement in a dog (lip licking, yawning, paw lifts, look aways etc…). Dogs never bite without warning. If someone claims a dog has bitten without warning, I can guarantee you that the dog probably gave warning signs in the past but was most likely reprimanded for it. In doing so, the dog learned not to give proper body cues to indicate when they were stressed for fear that they would be punished. This is when the phrase “he bit without warning” comes up! Don’t reprimand your dog for walking away from something it perceives as scary or for growling, these are great ways for us to know the dog is uncomfortable and needs to be worked through these situations in a positive manner. Getting upset with the dog or showing the dog “whose boss” will only exacerbate the problem. The dog is not trying to dominate you, the dog is most likely fearful and/or has not been taught proper ways to deal with their emotions. Here’s a great article that gives an in-depth look at why a popular television show will have people believing that their dogs are being “dominant” and why this train of thought is dangerous, out-dated and could lead people to receiving a bite!
Today I received another inquiry from a friend who recently adopted a Labrador mix breed puppy name Lily. Lily is enjoying excavating the lawn to her “mom’s” dismay. Digging is a natural instinct for dogs, although not all dogs have a propensity for it. As for the dogs that clearly enjoy slinging mud and grass, it can be very tricky to extinguish this behavior. So rather than spend countless hours or money on trying to prevent digging from happening, it’s often easier to provide the dog with a outlit by means of their own sandbox! The sandbox space does not have to be large, just wide enough for the dog to lay in if they’d like. Make the space more appealing by mixing in some sand with the dirt to make digging easier and toss some toys in the area to encourage the dog to dig there rather than some place else. Offer praise when the dog chooses their sandbox to dig in and redirect them to the spot if they show signs of digging elsewhere. For best results, don’t leave your dog unattended while they’re in the yard until you know they’ll choose the correct location to dig.
In other news this week, Taffy and her brother, Tator, were both adopted. Taffy is enjoying life as a pampered farm dog and Tator is the center of attention in a household full of six dog-savvy kids! Ali, the beautiful German Shepherd Dog puppy, will be headed to Michigan next week to live with his new “dad” and dog brother! Today, I assessed three dogs at the humane society, two of which already have adoption applications on them. The third dog, a little American Pit Bull, named Maeby was a complete doll to assess and is a classic Pitty with her goof ball antics, sweet disposition and kiss-a-bull face! For those who might interested, during the ASPCA’s Meet Your Match assessment, Maeby scored as a Green dog with a Life of the Party canine-ality!