There's nothing cuter than a child with a puppy. It's enough to warm your heart. But what happens when a dog doesn't want to play? The dog might bite—and even end up euthanized from an easily avoidable situation. With a little education, you can protect people and pets.
How denial hurts
Many pet owners suffer the misconception that their pet would never bite a child. Bottom line: Any dog can bite. My 10-year-old greyhound mix Romeo is one of the sweetest dogs I've ever met. He loves other dogs, cats and people. But I would never leave him unattended around a child. As pet owners it's up to us to take precautions to protect people.
Children, by nature, are graspers. They grab a hold of anything and everything. This may also include a dog's face and ears. While some dogs tolerate this behavior, some won't. We must teach both the dog and the child certain rules and guidelines to follow to avoid this disaster from occurring.
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Nip back with learning
Parents need to teach their children not to grab dogs' ears or face, but instead to pet their sides and abdomen. Most dogs prefer a belly rub over anything else in the world. Second, remind people to teach their children not to interrupt a dog. If a dog is sleeping, eating or protecting something, they are more likely to bite than a dog who approaches on their own.
Parents also need to supervise their children. Family pets need training, and if children are old enough they can help with training. It's also a good idea to teach kids proper ways to interact with the pet and things they should avoid. Also remind them to try to create an environment for pets where the pets feel comfortable and avoid situations where pets feel trapped. It's a good idea to create a comfortable place for the dog to go, whether it's a crate, another room or outside.
Accidents will happen. But responsible parents and pet owners can reduce these accidents. It's our responsibility, both for the child and for the pet, to create an environment where both can be comfortable. And we can continue to see adorable pictures of kids with puppies forever.
Adam Oliver is a technician at Veterinary Specialty Care in Mt. Pleasant, S.C.