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Man bites dog
February 18, 2014 9:48 AM   Subscribe

"My dog bit my child" A thoughtful post from blogger Lola the Pitty with excellent tips on how to monitor play and help kids to successfully interact with family pets.

Includes useful, kid-friendly poster-style content on canine body language and interaction skills. Also noted in the comments was a reference to the Yellow Dog Project, which can be helpful to raise awareness for kids (and adults) that some dogs may need more space and consideration.
posted by lonefrontranger (106 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'd say this is an issue with cats as well. Children tend to just march up and grab a cat, which can get them scratched pretty badly. Some cats like to be picked up at luvvy time, while others will allow this under no circumstances, perhaps because it has preceded the cat carrier, car, and vet before.
posted by thelonius at 10:00 AM on February 18 [3 favorites]


Don't let your babies get "magnetized" to dogs. Part 2, part 3, part 4.
posted by purpleclover at 10:01 AM on February 18 [24 favorites]


Hmmmm. There's lots of good advice in that post, but I find it a bit disturbing the way it categorically decides that the initial biting incident was either the child's or the parent's fault, or some combination of both. Good parents can give all kinds of good advice to kids about how they should treat pets and good kids can have the best intentions in the world but, in the end, kids are kids and occasionally will screw up. Ayoung kid who plays at barking at a dog is not a budding psychopath and isn't proof of a catastrophic failure of parenting.

I'm also a bit unsure what to make of the story itself. She says she's changed names to keep the case anonymous: but then she "quotes" chunks of the original postings. Now, it could be that she's reworded those "quotations" too (if you search for them you only get this blog post), but then, at what point does "rewording" become just "making stuff up"?
posted by yoink at 10:04 AM on February 18 [2 favorites]


I also like the ladder of aggression (although I'd call it the ladder of fear/aggression to emphasize that they're really the same impulse in dogs), which shows that bites don't usually "come out of the blue" - dogs are always communicating although sometimes we aren't listening.

There is a woman in my neighborhood with two children who asks me, every time, if her children can pet my dogs. Only when I say yes does she let the kids approach. That's the kind of parent I want to be. That article on dog "magnetizing" is amazing and just what I've been looking for recently in thinking about dog-child interactions.
posted by muddgirl at 10:08 AM on February 18 [5 favorites]


I'm also a bit unsure what to make of the story itself. She says she's changed names to keep the case anonymous: but then she "quotes" chunks of the original postings. Now, it could be that she's reworded those "quotations" too (if you search for them you only get this blog post), but then, at what point does "rewording" become just "making stuff up"?

The original source is Facebook. Unless it was a public post, it wouldn't be google indexed.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:08 AM on February 18


This is great, especially the posters. Thanks.
posted by medusa at 10:09 AM on February 18


yes, thank you so much purpleclover for the additional links - those are fantastic!
posted by lonefrontranger at 10:09 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Things have changed since I pulled Blackie's tail when I was two. He was a farm collie, who was eating at the time. I was a poorly-supervised toddler. He bit me in the face. I got stitches and learned a valuable lesson as did my parents. Blackie was allowed to eat uninterrupted from thereon out. He died when I was ten, of natural causes.
posted by which_chick at 10:09 AM on February 18 [8 favorites]


I find it a bit disturbing the way it categorically decides that the initial biting incident was either the child's or the parent's fault, or some combination of both.

Uhm. The kid was in the dog's face, growling. That is dog language for "I am mad at you." The dog bit the kid. The dog was put down.

This is absolutely a failure of parenting. If the dog has not had a history of aggression, a provoked bite is not a reason to put it down. Sucks that the kid got bitten, yes, but it wasn't the dog's fault.
posted by sonic meat machine at 10:09 AM on February 18 [27 favorites]


A friend wrote an article for Dogtime.com which covers the same topic and gives examples (from youtube videos) of kids and dogs interacting and pointing out warning signs that the dogs may not be too thrilled with the interactions.

From the Dogtime article:

Dogs give warning signs nearly every single time before biting someone. No matter what breed, or how well trained or socialized, it is incredibly rare for a dog to bite someone actually out of the blue.
posted by backwords at 10:10 AM on February 18 [2 favorites]


thelonious we have a shelter kitty who is all kinds of affectionate with us and the adult neighbors and generally people oriented, but he spooks / hides anytime he hears the neighbor's kids raising a ruckus, so I wonder if he's been roughhoused by kids. He was an "owner surrender" with no other info, so sadly I'll never know.
posted by lonefrontranger at 10:11 AM on February 18


Also, once, some distant relatives visited with a kid who was, shall we say, "loosely supervised." I saw him step on my dog's paw, on purpose, and she very matter-of-factly bit his leg. It didn't break the skin, but of course he ran screaming to his mother, who threatened bloody murder because precious was injured by our evil beast.

She lived to an old age. Haven't seen those relatives lately, though.
posted by sonic meat machine at 10:15 AM on February 18 [6 favorites]


This is absolutely a failure of parenting.

You're assuming at least two things, neither of which you have any evidence for: 1) that the parents had never said anything to this child about not behaving this way 2) that when children are told not to engage in a behavior, they never do it unless they are "bad" children.
posted by yoink at 10:16 AM on February 18 [5 favorites]


Were they watching the kid's interactions with the dog?

If so, did they remove or discipline the kid when he began to misbehave?
posted by sonic meat machine at 10:17 AM on February 18


Note: the answer to one of those must be "no," and that's a failure of parenting when it comes to interacting with pets. The fact that the parents immediately had the dog put down also argues that they had a fundamental misunderstanding of and lack of respect for their dog, expecting it to be a completely compliant and predictable family accessory as opposed to a sentient member of the family.
posted by sonic meat machine at 10:19 AM on February 18 [16 favorites]


There's lots of good advice in that post, but I find it a bit disturbing the way it categorically decides that the initial biting incident was either the child's or the parent's fault, or some combination of both

Since neither the child nor the dog have reason and moral agency, I don't see how anything leading to the child's injury isn't either an accident -- which a dog bite is not -- or a failure in parenting. It's always on the parent's shoulders.

Which doesn't make them bad parents. No parent is perfect, and God knows how many times luck saved my kid from the results of my own poor skills or decisions. It just means that if she'd gotten hurt it'd be on me, not on her, or a dog, or a swing set or a tree.
posted by tyllwin at 10:21 AM on February 18 [4 favorites]


If a kid was sticking their hand into a campfire, would a parent simply say "Honey don't do that, you'll hurt yourself" and blame the fire when the kid ignores them and gets burned?
posted by muddgirl at 10:21 AM on February 18 [2 favorites]


I was walking Apple a few months ago, and we ran across a small family: mom and two or three kids. Now, Apple is basically the opposite of aggressive: her instinctual reaction to danger is to stay very very still until it goes away. How she descended from wolves is practically an argument for intelligent design.

Anyway, one of the kids, maybe four or five, gets really excited and just HUGS the dog. Like drapes her body over her, and wraps her arms around her midsection. And Apple was fine with that but holy shit, the mom's only reaction was "we have a few dogs at home."

I'm not about to give strangers unasked-for parenting advice on the street but, goddamn lady your kid's gonna get bit one of these days.
posted by griphus at 10:22 AM on February 18 [12 favorites]


Also, no one has called Matthew's parents "bad parents." No one has called Matthew a "bad child."
posted by muddgirl at 10:24 AM on February 18


Note: the answer to one of those must be "no,"

Nonsense. Let's say the kid was 20 feet away playing with the dog on the lawn, too far away to be immediately swept away from the dog as soon as he started "misbehaving." Not unlike the woman writing the blog, you're simply choosing to imagine a scenario in which somebody must have done something wrong but without any shred of supporting evidence.
posted by yoink at 10:24 AM on February 18 [2 favorites]


Don't let your babies get "magnetized" to dogs.

I'm not sure whether to laugh or not. The article makes some good points but undermines itself with hyperbole. I mean, taking a photo of a baby with a huge kitchen knife?
posted by GuyZero at 10:25 AM on February 18


Why is that hyperbolic, GuyZero? A knife is not a toy, and is dangerous if treated like one. A dog is not a toy, and is dangerous if treated like one.
posted by muddgirl at 10:26 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


If a kid was sticking their hand into a campfire, would a parent simply say "Honey don't do that, you'll hurt yourself" and blame the fire when the kid ignores them and gets burned?

What is this supposed to be analogous to? Who here is saying that kids shouldn't be taught how to behave around dogs or saying that dogs ought to be blamed every single time a kid gets hurt by one?
posted by yoink at 10:30 AM on February 18


Nonsense. Let's say the kid was 20 feet away playing with the dog on the lawn, too far away to be immediately swept away from the dog as soon as he started "misbehaving." Not unlike the woman writing the blog, you're simply choosing to imagine a scenario in which somebody must have done something wrong but without any shred of supporting evidence.

Now you're scare-quoting "misbehaving" when it comes to a toddler getting into a dog's face and growling. Really? That is misbehaving.

In general, dogs that aren't showing signs of really aggressive demeanor aren't going to resort to biting as the first recourse. There was escalation; the parents were just oblivious to the dog's signs of discomfort. You also don't have to be two feet from a toddler at all times: yelling "Hey! Johnny!" would distract him long enough for him to stop so that you could take further action. Raising your voice to keep your kid from getting hurt isn't forbidden.
posted by sonic meat machine at 10:30 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


(Or, if your dog is well-trained, you could say "Hey! Spot! Come!" since dogs are more likely to immediately comply than toddlers.)
posted by sonic meat machine at 10:32 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Let's say the kid was 20 feet away playing with the dog on the lawn, too far away to be immediately swept away from the dog as soon as he started "misbehaving."

From part 3 of the Dogs and Babies article linked above
“Training,” by definition, should always be focused on influencing future choices. The effectiveness of your training can easily be tested by noticing the choices the child makes for herself — and it can be maintained by reinforcing those good choices. If you wait for children to do what you DON’T want and then tell them to stop, this is neither responsible parenting nor effective training.
Of course not all accidents can be prevented, and again no one has called anyone a "bad parent." Parents everywhere are irresponsible with pets and children. Something like 2 million children get bitten every year, and an equal number of adults. We can't expect children to know how to avoid being bitten unless we teach them. How can we teach parents how to help their children avoid dog bites without identifying situations as likely to incur bites?

What is this supposed to be analogous to? Who here is saying that kids shouldn't be taught how to behave around dogs or saying that dogs ought to be blamed every single time a kid gets hurt by one?

I intended it to be analogous to situation #2 in your comment:
1) that the parents had never said anything to this child about not behaving this way 2) that when children are told not to engage in a behavior, they never do it unless they are "bad" children.
which you presented as a rebuttal to the idea that Matthew's bite was a sign of ineffective parenting.

Can I imagine some scenario where Matthew was bitten completely out of the blue, and no action from Matthew or his parents could have prevented it? Yes, of course. How does that help Matthew or the other 2 million children who are bitten by dogs every year?
posted by muddgirl at 10:39 AM on February 18


How she descended from wolves is practically an argument for intelligent design.

I don't think anyone doubts that dogs were intelligently designed, even if we didn't really know exactly what we were doing for the first few thousands of years.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 10:46 AM on February 18 [5 favorites]


Children tend to just march up and grab a cat, which can get them scratched pretty badly.

When I see videos of people letting their toddlers play with cats, it strikes me as being the equivalent of handing an electric carving knife to a baby. Chances are, it probably won't get hurt too badly.

Probably.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:50 AM on February 18 [2 favorites]


they had the dog for *seven years* and put him down immediately after this provoked incident? i'm not saying a single dog bite isn't something to be taken seriously when we're talking about kids, but damn.

the fact that she put up a picture of the kid with stitches to elicit sympathy shows to me anyway that she read this situation wrong and places zero blame on the kid, in terms of understanding how this happened. i know it's a kid but he needs to learn at the very least not to taunt animals.
posted by twist my arm at 10:53 AM on February 18 [11 favorites]


A knife is not a toy, and is dangerous if treated like one. A dog is not a toy, and is dangerous if treated like one.

I don't need a photo of a baby actually holding a knife to make that point. That's why it's hyperbole.
posted by GuyZero at 10:57 AM on February 18


Yes, of course. How does that help Matthew or the other 2 million children who are bitten by dogs every year?

As I said, the links about how to teach children to interact with pets in the blog post are very useful and full of good advice. What I don't like is the framing of the blog post which assumes that when something goes wrong it automatically means the parents were at fault. Children make mistakes; they make mistakes even when their parents are kind, thoughtful and actively involved in trying to teach them well. Teaching a kid that a campfire is hot is relatively easy, because campfires are fairly predictable and consistent. Teaching a kid what is and is not "safe" behavior with a family pet is far more complex, because pets, like humans, have their good days and bad days and do not always respond to the same stimulus in the same way. I just think framing the blog post on the assumption that if your child is bitten by a dog you are obviously at fault is unhelpful.

But I'm being harassed by the OP over IM so I guess I'll drop out of this thread.
posted by yoink at 10:59 AM on February 18 [9 favorites]


In this thread I see the dog people with no kids acknowledge that their animals can be inherently unsafe:

"A dog is not a toy, and is dangerous if treated like one."

Yet they bring them out in public where children are present:

"I was walking Apple a few months ago, and we ran across a small family..."

And then jump straight to the conclusion that any incident that does occur is automatically the parents' fault:

"...goddamn lady your kid's gonna get bit one of these days."

Sorry to pick on you muddgirl, you're just more quotable than "sonic meat machine".

The fact is that small children are no more inherently controllable than most dogs. Ever see someone tell a dog to sit and it doesn't? That happens with kids, too, despite a parents' best intentions. Because your child does something they shouldn't is not a "failure of parenting", unless you're just going to say that all parents are failures. Every kid does these things. Sometimes they get hurt, usually not badly.

I can't help but read these comments as arguing essentially "teach your kids to interact properly with dogs!" in a way that is analogous to arguing "teach your kids not to pull the trigger if they find a gun!" as if the fault in such a case lay not with the person who put a loaded gun where a child would find it, but in the parents for failing to instill the proper sense of firearm discipline in children who are potentially still young enough to be in diapers. It's ridiculous.

The view from the dogs-but-no-kids crowd seems to be, "It is never my/my dog's fault and always your/your child's fault because you/your child should always act in a way that my animal expects".

I am not anti-dog or anything, I may even like to get a dog at some point, but a little more sympathy and understanding for the other side would actually be appreciated instead of self-righteousness and sarcasm like, "because precious was injured by our evil beast."
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 11:02 AM on February 18 [12 favorites]


Ultimately, dogs have to have a very high tolerance for obnoxious toddler behavior in order to be safe around toddlers. Or they have to wear a muzzle.

Some dogs simply have unsafe temperaments for certain situations. Shitty, irresponsible breeding is likely the culprit. It is reasonable to expect a family dog to avoid harming members of that family, even if they are socially inept. It is tragic that this dog was unable to fulfill those expectations, yes, but that does not make those expectations unreasonable.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:09 AM on February 18 [6 favorites]


I don't need a photo of a baby actually holding a knife to make that point.

I thought it was a baby at first, too, but it's actually a doll.
posted by maudlin at 11:11 AM on February 18 [4 favorites]


I don't need a photo of a baby actually holding a knife to make that point. That's why it's hyperbole.

You may not need it, but some people do. Those posters in the original post, about how treating dogs the same way you would treat a person (not stealing food, getting in their face, and so forth)? You might be surprised how many people would go goggle-eyed at the idea. For lots of reasons. Some parents don't supervise their kids closely, and/or half-heartedly make handwavey gestures at correcting their children when they are hurting another child or a dog. Some dog owners are convinced their precious would never hurt anyone, regardless of what the dog's body language is actually saying.

There is a lot of room for fault, and a lot of willful blindness on both sides. You may dismiss it as hyperbole, but I'll think of it as leaving no room for misunderstanding.
posted by ambrosia at 11:11 AM on February 18


What I don't like is the framing of the blog post which assumes that when something goes wrong it automatically means the parents were at fault.

That wasn't my take-away from the post at all. The post did not say, "A child got bit and therefore the parents are at fault." The post says that a child got bit, after barking in a dogs face, and then sadly put their family pet of seven years to sleep without seeming to understand the multiple, predictable factors that go into dog bites. The site is down now so I can't re-verify, but I don't recall any mentions of the parents being bad parents, or of Matthew being a bad child. From my perspective, it seems like any analysis of a situation is off-limits because "accidents happen."

Yet they bring them out in public where children are present:

I bring my pocket-knife out in public where children are present. In general, children are trained to be respectful of knives and do not rush over when they see I have a pocket knife to "pet it". I don't hand my knife to children unsupervised, and I don't hand my dog to children unsupervised either. Because I am a responsible knife-owner and a responsible pet-owner.

Of course the difference between a knife and a dog is that a dog is an autonomous, thinking, feeling creature that cannot be kept in a holster and enjoys human companionship.

as if the fault in such a case lay not with the person who put a loaded gun where a child would find it

Yoink is criticising me/the article because I am blaming the parents too much. You are criticising me because I am not blaming the parents - who in your analogy would be the gunowners - enough? Personally, I have tried to be very careful to lay the responsibility on both pet owners (to supervise and train their pets) and on parents (to supervise and train their children). Sometimes pet owners and parents are one-and-the-same, and yes, responsibility is doubled.
posted by muddgirl at 11:12 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


The view from the dogs-but-no-kids crowd seems to be, "It is never my/my dog's fault and always your/your child's fault because you/your child should always act in a way that my animal expects".

I'm... not sure anyone's arguing that it's not a complex situation? Polarizing the argument almost never helps, certainly. It's one of the reasons I included the Yellow Dog link, as it's a helpful reminder that not all dogs are equally approachable, and a visual reminder is a good thing.

I was raised on a farm with lots of animals, dogs, cats and large and dangerous livestock included. I was socialized from an early age to interact with all of them respectfully. I learned how to do the same with guns, fwiw. I would neither bring a dangerous dog, nor a loaded gun into contact with a child, and I'm not entirely sure how that analogy helps frame the discussion?

yoink, I sincerely was not intending to harrass you, I am sorry that you feel that way. I was simply attempting to find out why you felt you had to post so much argumentative content in the discussion where other posters had contributed constructive links and framing.

I really have no dog in this fight. I don't own a dog, I don't have kids and I don't know the blogger or anyone else involved, so I'll bow out now.
posted by lonefrontranger at 11:13 AM on February 18 [3 favorites]


And then jump straight to the conclusion that any incident that does occur is automatically the parents' fault:

"...goddamn lady your kid's gonna get bit one of these days."


The kid, in a literal sense, pounced the dog and mom laughed it off. Like, if the exact same thing happened with an unfriendly dog, the reaction would be totally different.

Now I don't know a whole lot about kids, admittedly, but when you're like next to your kid and your kid wraps their body around an animal they have never met and you don't do jack squat about it, well, what the hell? If my dog needs consistency in training to make sure she doesn't do Bad Things, don't kids?
posted by griphus at 11:13 AM on February 18 [14 favorites]


tylerkaraszewski griphus's story had more details than that-- including the parent's reaction that draping yourself on an unknown dog was par for the course. wrong and dangerous and could definitely lead to a bite with the wrong dog.

i agree that *some* dogs are "loaded guns". irresponsible pet owners who think their overexcited dog jumping up on you is "happy", tiny dogs that bite all the time are just "scared", any dog that won't listen to you just "has a mind of his own" etc.

griphus said his dog is "basically the opposite of aggressive: her instinctual reaction to danger is to stay very very still until it goes away" and her response to this probably unwelcome hug was to be chill. sounds like his judgment of his dog's temperament was right, and i wouldn't describe him walking his dog as carrying around a "loaded gun."
posted by twist my arm at 11:14 AM on February 18


The fact is that small children are no more inherently controllable than most dogs.

I agree. I've had a lot of dogs in my life. I was bitten as a young child, mainly through stupidly intercepting cat-dog food conflicts, but never to the point where I needed stitches. Some dogs are just more dangerous than others. I know I wouldn't feel comfortable owning a dog that would do that and that kind of a dog would be difficult to re-home, given the hundreds of thousands of other dogs that are up for adoption who haven't sent other kids or pets to the hospital. We re-homed one dog, a dog who menaced our cats, but that's far different from actually injuring them and the person who adopted him ensured us that he would only be walked on-leash.
posted by melissam at 11:14 AM on February 18


And the posters are great, don't get me wrong. It is important to teach children to be empathetic, respectful, kind.

I laughed at the third one. I'd like my toddler to stop climbing on me and shouting in my face, too! He's still learning. It takes a while.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:16 AM on February 18


Not really aimed at kids, but how to avoid a dog attack.
posted by walrus at 11:23 AM on February 18


From the Dogs and Babies site - here's an article about how to prevent dog bites when your dog is "adult-only" but you interact with kids, from the perspective of the dog owner's responsibilities.
posted by muddgirl at 11:23 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


The view from the dogs-but-no-kids crowd seems to be, "It is never my/my dog's fault and always your/your child's fault because you/your child should always act in a way that my animal expects".

Actually, "tylerkaraszewski," I have both. Our daughter has treated the dog badly in the past, and gets time out and a stern talking to when it happens. The dog has never shown any sign of being aggressive toward her. (He's well trained; she's on the path to being well trained. We also monitor their interactions.)
posted by sonic meat machine at 11:26 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Since we're talking about dog-person etiquette, Lili Chin has drawn a series of posters that may be helpful.

How NOT to Greet a Dog
Doggie Language
posted by workerant at 11:27 AM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Those posters in the original post, about how treating dogs the same way you would treat a person (not stealing food, getting in their face, and so forth)? You might be surprised how many people would go goggle-eyed at the idea.

Yeah, I guess the disconnect for a lot of people is that a lot of kids are essentially rude and crazy all the time, even to people, because they don't have the cognitive skills/experience/impulse control to make good decisions. So yeah, an adult with normal capacity can get a lot from that comparison. A toddler, that poster is laughably useless. I mean, we are talking about 1 to 3 year olds, here. The expectations for their behavior need to be realistic, and the blog post is kinda out of line for implying that education of the child or parents would have prevented this.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:30 AM on February 18


> I can't help but read these comments as arguing essentially "teach your kids to interact properly with dogs!" in a way that is analogous to arguing "teach your kids not to pull the trigger if they find a gun!" as if the fault in such a case lay not with the person who put a loaded gun where a child would find it, but in the parents for failing to instill the proper sense of firearm discipline in children who are potentially still young enough to be in diapers. It's ridiculous.

The two viewpoints:

1. Be a responsible parent; teach your kids to interact properly with dogs.
2. Be a responsible pet owner; don't let your dog play with kids in a situation that you can't manage.

Both of these are correct. The best course of action, as in defensive driving, is to be overcautious rather than assume the other group is going to do the right thing. I think the comments are emphasizing #1 because it is just as vital as #2 but isn't discussed as often.

To use your analogy: when I was in school, we had Eddie Eagle come to our school for an auditorium lesson on what we should do if we find a firearm in the house: stop; don't touch; leave the area; tell an adult. Not described in this action plan is what the adult should do (hopefully some version of "holy shit why was there an unsecured firearm" complete with arguments and yelling).

I don't think anyone here is arguing that it's the kid's fault if he gets himself bitten, any more than the NRA (who, I only recently realized, is behind Eddie Eagle) was arguing that it's the kid's fault if she accidentally shoots herself with a found pistol. Planning for contingencies is good, and saying "if only the kid knew [x]" is not assigning fault.

And, yes, kids will be kids, and won't always follow instructions. Likewise, owners can do everything right and still end up with a crying child. I am less concerned with assigning fault when it happens and more concerned with making that as rare an occurrence as possible.
posted by savetheclocktower at 11:30 AM on February 18 [6 favorites]


Yoink is criticising me/the article because I am blaming the parents too much. You are criticising me because I am not blaming the parents - who in your analogy would be the gunowners - enough? Personally, I have tried to be very careful to lay the responsibility on both pet owners (to supervise and train their pets) and on parents (to supervise and train their children). Sometimes pet owners and parents are one-and-the-same, and yes, responsibility is doubled.

Maybe I missed it but *nobody* has blamed the pet owners in this thread. They've talked about failure of parenting, but not failure of dog training or failure to keep the dog away from small children. I realize these are the same people in this thread, but it's only their parenting that's been brought into question, not their pet handling abilities.

If my dog needs consistency in training to make sure she doesn't do Bad Things, don't kids?

This woman probably should have told her kid to leave unfamiliar dogs alone, but this is the sort of thing that only gets said *after* something happens. Kid pounces on dog unexpectedly, parents says, "No!" If this were the kind of dog that bit in this situation, it would have already been too late, intentions of the parent aside.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 11:31 AM on February 18


Google cache of the article.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:33 AM on February 18


They've talked about failure of parenting, but not failure of dog training or failure to keep the dog away from small children.

This is likely because the dog was killed. I think it's generally understood that the parents know how the failed the dog, because they had to kill it and felt very sad about that.

This woman probably should have told her kid to leave unfamiliar dogs alone, but this is the sort of thing that only gets said *after* something happens.

...which is exactly the kind of oversight that we're talking about trying to change in this thread.
posted by muddgirl at 11:34 AM on February 18


This woman probably should have told her kid to leave unfamiliar dogs alone, but this is the sort of thing that only gets said *after* something happens.

I don't know, we were always taught to avoid strange animals from a very young age and to always, always ask if we could pet the dogs. We didn't have animals at home but my parents grew up with dogs.

Then again we also used to get to preschool by walking through a zoo at the same time as the daily walk for the New Guinea singing dogs and with an open prairie dog enclosure, so pet animals were probably the least of my parents' worries.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:35 AM on February 18


They've talked about failure of parenting, but not failure of dog training or failure to keep the dog away from small children.

This is likely because the dog was killed. I think it's generally understood that the parents know how the failed the dog, because they had to kill it and felt very sad about that.


Also, this story is shaped by how the parents (allegedly, I guess) described the incident. They said that the child was barking in the dog's face. If they had said, "Our dog became possessive of one of Matthew's toys and bit Matthew as he was playing with it," the article and ensuing discussion would have been different, because dogs do need to be trained not to become dangerously possessive of belongings.
posted by muddgirl at 11:41 AM on February 18


Kid pounces on dog unexpectedly, parents says, "No!" If this were the kind of dog that bit in this situation, it would have already been too late, intentions of the parent aside.

Which is why I'm a bit confused that my example was the one you used in re: wrongly blaming parents for "any incident that does occur." The parent failed to say "no!" and the kid was not discouraged from acting inappropriately toward strange dogs. This puts the kid in danger in the future.

So I'd think it's pretty safe to say that laughing off the kid hugging a strange dog rather than saying "even though the dog looks friendly, we don't hug strange dogs" isn't the thing a parent is supposed to do to ensure the safety of their child.
posted by griphus at 11:42 AM on February 18 [3 favorites]


...which is exactly the kind of oversight that we're talking about trying to change in this thread.

Can we acknowledge, though, that while the mom in griphus' anecdote was being unwise and likely negligent, that the original post was about a toddler? And that telling them things is not foolproof, and that their behavior is not perfectly reflective of their parents' skill or willingness to parent them?
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:45 AM on February 18


There really isn't quite enough information in that article to be sure. But it seems as if a child provoked a dog beyond reasonable endurance, got bitten, and the parents killed the dog as a result. If this is the case, I'd call the parents "deeply irresponsible".

> I think it's generally understood that the parents know how the failed the dog, because they had to kill it and felt very sad about that.

Why is this generally understood? If they felt very sad, why didn't they put the dog up for fostering? Or even tried to educate the dog and the child themselves?

Lots of people treat pets as property they own. From the limited evidence we have, they took the very simplest way and laziest way out - they killed the dog. There's no evidence that the parents felt bad.

We work with a dog rescue to foster dogs in New York City. One of the big reasons for dogs being surrendered is a new baby - whether or not there's the slightest sign of aggression. My experience leads me to sympathize with the dog, but again, limited evidence here.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:49 AM on February 18 [2 favorites]


I think the big issue for me is that I completely do not understand why a dog has to be put down after one violent act. It's never made sense to me that there are next to no second chances for dogs and that, to me, is unacceptable.

I understand that dogs aren't people, but seriously, biting a person does not give the animal a "taste for blood" and they will not be unable to resist biting in the future. My beagle as a child was the most wonderful and loving dog you'd ever meet. She walked me to and from school, she loved kids and kids loved her. One of her favorite games was Chase, where I would run around her and she would run behind me and nip at my pant leg. One day in the summer, we played Chase and she bit my leg because I was wearing shorts instead of pants. It broke the skin and I was seriously hurt. If it had been any kid but me, my wonderful and flawless dog would have been put down. But because I knew it had completely and totally been my fault for encouraging a game that wasn't that safe, I didn't tell a soul.

She never played Chase with anybody ever again and when I would forget and try to start a game up, she would just lay down and look at me. Years later as an adult, I mentioned the incident to my parents and both of them were shocked that she bit me. And both agreed that if I had told them at the time, they would have thought differently about her and possibly considered putting her down. The fact that she never, ever bit another soul in her life didn't matter. In their eyes she was then a "biter" and could be dangerous.
posted by teleri025 at 11:51 AM on February 18 [17 favorites]


Just wanted to pop in and say that advice for dogs works with pet birds. Muffin is friendly to women (Men bad!!!) and may nibble when stepping up, but also may bite out of fear or if he gets scared (the fear bite is the worst). They do have built in nutcrackers after all! A parrot can be territorial with things, doesn't like to be bothered when eating and will give plenty of warning signs before striking (standing tall, flattening feathers, holding wings away from the body...and in the case of cockatiels, hissing and flattening the crest).

Parrots need space just like dogs, and often have a favourite person who they feel they need protect and defend.
posted by Calzephyr at 11:58 AM on February 18


They put the dog down after 7 years for one- provoked-bite?
posted by spaltavian at 12:07 PM on February 18


lupus_yonderboy - I was just speculating why most of us focused on the parenting-failure and not the dog-training failure. Not trying to make any kind of claims about the parents involved. I generally don't assume people are heartless and cruel, so when they put a family pet down I assume they do it because it's the best decision they're capable of reaching, and that they feel bad about it afterwards.

One of the big reasons for dogs being surrendered is a new baby - whether or not there's the slightest sign of aggression.

Aggression doesn't seem like the most likely reason to surrender a dog after having a baby. Some families unexpectedly find that they don't have time for both the baby and the dog. Isn't it better to give the dog to someone that can care for it, vs. letting it languish and grow ignored and uncared for? We took in a dog that needed to be rehomed, and we've never blamed the original owners either for surrendering her, or for trying to adopt her in the first place.
posted by muddgirl at 12:11 PM on February 18


I don't dislike the idea of teaching kids how to deal with dogs, but I do have to say that for every time I remember causing a problem with dogs as a child, I've had at least ten other incidents due to the dog owners. I've had dogs attack me on runs and on bike rides. I've seen packs of dogs blocking roads. I've had dogs break leashes and jump fences to come after me, particularly when I was running with my own dog. My mom has had so many loose and aggressive dogs cause problems with her that's she's managed to get a phobia of them.

So, while I don't disagree that teaching kids how to deal with dogs is probably a good idea, teaching dog owners how not to be dicks should be objective #1. And far more people are bad with dogs than they realize.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:12 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


Mitrovarr - I completely agree. I don't think they're mutually exclusive at all. But I think there is a general agreement that adults are responsible for the behavior of their dogs, which is why there are laws that hold dog owners responsible if their negligence results in a dog bite, and in some states they may be responsible even if there is no negligence.

(It just occurred to me - could that the dog have been put down due to a court order? I know in some states the hospital would be mandated to report a dog bite to Animal Control. I don't know how the repercussions differ if the child involved is your own kid.)
posted by muddgirl at 12:18 PM on February 18


muddgirl: But I think there is a general agreement that adults are responsible for the behavior of their dogs, which is why there are laws that hold dog owners responsible if their negligence results in a dog bite, and in some states they may be responsible even if there is no negligence.

I don't think there are nearly enough of these laws. I had a friend who was attacked recently on a run - got tore up a bit. The owner maybe got a ticket. That is not sufficient - they should be in jail. She's an adult, but a child might have been killed by the same attack. Irresponsible dog ownership is not taken nearly as seriously by the law as it needs to be.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:21 PM on February 18


I really don't think that a toddler barking and growling in a dog's face is provocation that justifies a serious bite. Absent other evidence, this bite is enough to justify humane euthanasia.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:23 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


I think this is a salient point (from the OP) - the blogger is not talking about casual interactions between children and unfamiliar dogs. She is discussing daily interaction between family pets and children.

"There are plenty of resources out there – use them, share them. Even if an adult notices the signs, a child may not. That’s how accidents happen. Even if your dog and child have been raised together, it only takes once. PLEASE, teach your children respect and how to properly treat a dog. Even though your dog may tolerate it, every dog has a breaking point."

I don't see where there is blame being ascribed here (I'm not even sure why it's important to ascribe blame as it's not entirely clear to me anyone is blaming anyone for anything in the OP... it's framed as an accident). The blogger in the OP is merely trying to point out that accidents do happen, often before you realize it, that they often result from more than one concurrent failure mode, thus they are often preventable. To say something "is preventable" does not equal assigning blame. And I also didn't read the posters as intended for toddlers to read (what?), rather as a handy, simple resource for parents and potentially older children to understand dog body language and teach children accordingly. A lot of adults really don't understand dog body language very well (or at all), or (frequently) they make the mistake of assuming most or all dogs will always react similarly or the same as their own family pet, or worse, that their own family pet will react exactly the same as the last fifty-six times their tail / fur was pulled, they got climbed on or barked/growled at, et cetera. I think the key point being made here is that this was not an unfamiliar dog encountered at the park. This was a familiar family pet of 7 years that had never previously shown aggression.

there have been excellent, excellent additional resources posted to this thread - this one in particular goes in depth about how the adults in these scenarios have the responsibility to 1) guide interactions between kids and pets, which means more than mere supervision and 2) to remove the dog from the area / child's reach if they cannot appropriately monitor / guide interaction, and 3) yes indeed, since you cannot always control circumstances, it is absolutely on dog owners to teach your dog how to cope with kids being kids.

I don't think anyone in this thread is denying any of those responsibilities, by the parents, by the kid, or by the pet owner. What the OP is saying is that a tragic accident, that was likely not unforeseen based on prior experiences, ultimately led to a long-time family pet being put to sleep. Ok so that was a sad outcome, and here are some resources for teaching appropriate, respectful interactions between kids and pets in attempts to prevent this sort of thing from happening.

on preview: Mitrovarr, I wholeheartedly agree about careless dog owners and unleashed / uncontrolled dogs; they are a veritable plague here in Boulder (I am a daily cyclist and if I had a dollar for every 80# off-leash Golden I've had suddenly leap out of the creek 6" in front of me on my way to work I'd be well on my way to a spare wheelset but that's maybe a separate rant altogether.)
posted by lonefrontranger at 12:28 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


> Some families unexpectedly find that they don't have time for both the baby and the dog.

Suppose a family had a second child and discovered that they didn't have time for two kids. Would you suggest putting one kid up for adoption? Except of course it isn't even necessarily adoption...

> Isn't it better to give the dog to someone that can care for it, vs. letting it languish and grow ignored and uncared for?

I'm sorry, I should have been less polite.

People give their dogs up to "shelters" because they have kids, and most of them die a miserable and lonely death. Some fraction of those get rescued by our rescue or others, most do not.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:31 PM on February 18 [3 favorites]


I really don't think that a toddler barking and growling in a dog's face is provocation that justifies a serious bite.

I mean, not if the dog were a human who could understand the nuance of the situation, but because the dog is a DOG, all it knows is "crap, this dude's gonna bite me." Because dogs think we are also dogs! And when a dog barks and growls at another dog, shit is on!
posted by like_a_friend at 12:32 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


> I really don't think that a toddler barking and growling in a dog's face is provocation that justifies a serious bite. Absent other evidence, this bite is enough to justify humane euthanasia.

I have to believe you have zero experience with dogs. What exactly do you expect a dog to do in such a circumstance?

Suppose your toddler was barking and growling in another toddler's face. Would you really be surprised if the other toddler bit your child? Would you be asking for the other toddler to be executed?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:33 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Also, as a general rule, if a well-trained dog is under stress, they will come to their master "seeking remedy," so to speak. For example, if the kid is annoying our dog, the dog will come toward us in a submissive way, as if to say: "Master, why must this thing be tolerated?" As both parent and "master of the pack," it's the responsibility of the pet owner to maintain order.

I also believe, although I have no scientific way to prove it, that scolding the child in view of the dog will reinforce this behavior and improve the "pack's" social cohesion: the dog sees that he came to you, the hairless puppy was talked to Sternly, and the suffering stopped. You have reinforced that you have rightful authority and will help when the dog needs it.
posted by sonic meat machine at 12:34 PM on February 18 [3 favorites]


Suppose your toddler was barking and growling in another toddler's face. Would you really be surprised if the other toddler bit your child?

I would be pretty fucking surprised, yes.
posted by Jairus at 12:35 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


Jairus, why? I am 45 years old and still have a scar on my forearm from being bitten when I was 2 or 3 by the neighbor's little boy after some sort of altercation.
posted by lonefrontranger at 12:37 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


...I bit a kid once in second grade. To be fair, I was pretty provoked.
posted by dogheart at 12:37 PM on February 18 [5 favorites]


> I would be pretty fucking surprised, yes.

Really? I was bitten by kids as a kid, and I bit another kid at least once.

Honestly - you really expect a child to bark and growl in a dog's face and the dog to do nothing? Have you ever had experience with dogs?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:41 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


As a dog owner who hopes to someday have kids, I found the article about not magentizing your kid to dogs super helpful--I think I would probably have been unthinkingly inclined to do all the things you're not supposed to do.

I think it's absolutely my responsibility to make sure my dog never hurts anyone, but I also hope that parents will make that easier for me by encouraging their kids not to test his limits.
posted by chatongriffes at 12:48 PM on February 18 [4 favorites]


Suppose a family had a second child and discovered that they didn't have time for two kids. Would you suggest putting one kid up for adoption? Except of course it isn't even necessarily adoption...

(1) Some mothers do choose to abort pregnancies or adopt their children out when they know they will not have enough resources to care for multiple children. In addition, Child Protective Services exists, in part, because parents sometimes neglect children not out of maliciousness, but out of lack of resources. This doesn't seem very controversial to me. (2) Dogs are not people.

People give their dogs up to "shelters" because they have kids, and most of them die a miserable and lonely death.

That is an argument for reducing the number of domesticated dogs in general, and improving the conditions of shelters, which are worthwhile goals that I support. Not for shaming people for prioritizing their child over their dog.
posted by muddgirl at 12:50 PM on February 18 [5 favorites]


Really? I was bitten by kids as a kid, and I bit another kid at least once.

Honestly - you really expect a child to bark and growl in a dog's face and the dog to do nothing? Have you ever had experience with dogs?


No, I expect the dog to eat the child. I expect a toddler to bark back or start crying. Possibly I have unrealistic expectations of toddlers.
posted by Jairus at 12:59 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


It's one of the reasons I included the Yellow Dog link, as it's a helpful reminder that not all dogs are equally approachable, and a visual reminder is a good thing.

There is a woman in my building with one of these because her dog will attack most dogs it passes (including mine); she walks the damn thing with an extendable lead as if having the yellow ribbon now absolved her of all responsibility. As that's the only use of the ribbon I've seen it has failed to convince me of its value except to let people justify being wankers about their ill-trained animal.

More on topic: I have a dog. I love my dog to bits; he's totally awesome, even when he drives me up the wall and he is the great joy of my life. I would be devastated if I had to put my dog down, but he's not a person. Parents do have a responsibility to teach their children about dogs, but the onus is rightfully on dog owners to do even more to ensure their dogs don't react violently even when they're provoked. And it's hard to blame people for prioritizing their child over their dog; add to that that even if you surrender a dog and answer honestly that it's being surrendered because it bit a child, the odds are not great of that dog being rehomed. And kids are going to at some point clamber over their family pet and do a range of the things that they're not supposed, even if you say so over and over and do your best. A family pet is going to have to be very tolerant even with a well-behaved young child and if it can't be tolerant then it's not very suitable as a family pet.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 1:05 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


>> People give their dogs up to "shelters" because they have kids, and most of them die a miserable and lonely death.

> That is an argument for reducing the number of domesticated dogs in general

That's absolutely true, but then doesn't that lead inexorably to the idea that the owners are irresponsible? They own a dog, when they shouldn't have, and later on have that dog killed. They shouldn't have owned a dog, and thus the dog died. Some people shouldn't own dogs, and these are some of those people.

> and improving the conditions of shelters, which are worthwhile goals that I support. Not for shaming people for prioritizing their child over their dog.

We're shaming them for killing their dog, not "prioritizing", which is completely understandable.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:05 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


in my many interactions with the neighbors and their (many) small-to-medium-sized children it has been very enlightening for me to note that there is one little boy up the block in particular who is always kind and respectful of our (child-shy as noted above) shelter kitty when I take him out on the leash. To date, this little boy (and I can't imagine he is more than 3 years old) is the only child Pixel will allow to pet him. This is likely partly the young man's own personality, as I get that boys are often merely noise covered in dirt, but he also demonstrates some pretty effective parenting and socialization skill by his folks. He always asks, from a safe distance (usually from his parents' stoop thirty feet away while we are on the sidewalk) if it is okay for him to pet the kitty. I say "yes, but be gentle" and he always approaches carefully, speaks softly, kneels down and lets kitty walk up to him, and he doesn't attempt to make contact until kitty doesn't flinch away. Pixel will sniff, then give him a head butt and it's all good from there. He is the most considerate little gentleman I've ever met, and it's also why he's the only child on the block (of many) who can get within twenty feet of my skittish, mildly toddler averse kitty.

This is the same way I was socialized, as a young child, to approach all animals. Ask first, be calm, let the animal come to you and initiate contact.

It's also useful to try to remember in any situation where the control lies. If it's not your dog or an unfamiliar owner, then sadly you have basically no control of the situation, or only tangential / punitive / reactionary control. Your own pet / own child you can take steps to manage, but you're never going to 100% control all scenarios (see toddler biting stories above) -- kids get some seriously nutty ideas and I have seen / heard of situations where excitable / wound up kids "got mad" and bit the dog first, which set off a cascade effect. You can, however, control your own actions, which is why these resources on training, recognizing scenarios and body language, and understanding your own responsibilities as a parent in the situation are (hopefully) helpful.
posted by lonefrontranger at 1:12 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


she walks the damn thing with an extendable lead as if having the yellow ribbon now absolved her of all responsibility.

here be assholes, and I'm sorry you have to put up with this. if it helps, it's not the ribbon's fault but the owner as you rightfully observe. Sigh. I dog-sit a dog-shy, leash-aggressive dog that I use the yellow ribbon on, but I don't walk her on popular trails, or at busy times, I avoid getting her within conflict distance of other dogs to the best of my ability, and I always keep her on a short leash. If anything the yellow ribbon has helped me with her as a signal to other dog owners that it's not okay to let their dog frolic up to her off-lead, but as always ymmv.
posted by lonefrontranger at 1:19 PM on February 18


Honestly - you really expect a child to bark and growl in a dog's face and the dog to do nothing? Have you ever had experience with dogs?

I've had other dogs bark and growl into my dog's face and not provoke biting. It depends on the dog's temperament and there is only do much you can do with training. They could have tried to re-home the dog, but as pointed out many times on this thread, there are many many dogs up for adoption who need homes, and many of them don't have an aggressive history.

I notice most people here aren't distinguishing between a dog accidentally biting someone, nipping, and snapping versus aggressively attacking a child. Based on a facebook post it's pretty hard to tell, but if it was the latter I could understand the family's decision, especially given that a humane death might be preferable than sending the dog to the pound, where the dog might have been put down after languishing for a long time in that kind of an environment.
posted by melissam at 1:19 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


from the OP, the parent describing the incident on FB: "

[some other commenter] “May I ask, how did this happen with Buddy?”

[...shortly thereafter the mom said] “Oh you know, Matthew was up in Buddy’s face barking and growling at him”."


which, ok so there's truly no way to tell with such thin evidence, but the framing of the response maybe indicates there was a history of the child doing this.

I could understand the family's decision, especially given that a humane death might be preferable than sending the dog to the pound, where the dog might have been put down after languishing for a long time in that kind of an environment.

agreed, especially if external forces / considerations like local animal control laws got involved. I can't condemn the parents for their actions; it's a shitty situation all around, and likely more complicated than the internet can guess at, but I do still feel sorry about the circumstances that led to the outcome.
posted by lonefrontranger at 1:42 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Like yoink and others have pointed out, kids do not do exactly as they're told all the time, and testing boundaries and learning by experience is part of growing up. A kid doing something that he has been specifically told not to do, around a dog or anything else, is no more a "failure of parenting" than a kid saying "no" to eating their broccoli.

If you have a small child and your pet dog bites his face, the dog has probably lost any chance of being trusted around your child. The question of "fault" is completely irrelevant--the dog is not the one the parents are going to accommodate in the long run faced with the choice. We don't really have enough information here to understand what exactly happened, but I think it's safe to say that the dog in the shelter that is known to have bitten a child's face is not going to be the most sought-after. It's a shame it was put down, but I'm not sure what options were available or explored.
posted by Hoopo at 1:47 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


I got a pretty bad bite as a kid, from a dog I'd often played with at the neighbors. It was probably neglected; it was always on a chain in their yard, and tolerated my petting and talking to it for whatever reason. Until one day I walked by and it wasn't on the chain and ran after me (I ran away in fear) and it bit me bad enough to need stitches.

It wasn't put down, because it didn't test positive for rabies, and honestly, I don't blame the dog. I was a little kid, and I'm sure I was doing annoying little-kid things, and running away made me look like prey. And it wasn't a well-socialized dog.

But after that, all the movies about dogs as Kid's Best Friends just served to remind me that sometimes, they're not. They don't know what you're thinking, always; they don't always want to nobly protect you. They're beings with minds of their own, and they aren't always going to act the way you expect.

And I'd never let a baby or toddler play with one without close supervision.
posted by emjaybee at 1:54 PM on February 18


Either an dog is a wild animal, or is domesticated. Part of being domesticated is that it will learn human behaviors, including not biting humans. If it can't cope with that, it has to die, or live the life of a wild animal in a cage. "Oh, there's secret wolf body language you didn't learn, so it's YOUR fault" isn't the game we play. Wolves live in the wild, not in homes.

And the family was absolutely right to put the dog down. My own friends had a young child who was injured in an interaction with the family dog. It wasn't entirely clear what had happened to cause the gash -- there was a parent in the room with them, but they weren't looking directly at them so just saw the scramble from the corner of their eye -- so after the hospital visit they signed the dog up for obedience lessons, and rearranged things so that the child and the dog would have interaction only under very close supervision. And a couple of weeks later, with both parents in arms' reach and the most careful and gentle of supervised interaction, the dog bit the girl on her face. She has scars that will never go away.
posted by tavella at 1:59 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Part of being domesticated is that it will learn human behaviors, including not biting humans.

...humans sometimes bite humans. We also hit each other, kick each other, and scratch each other, if we see the need. We have a legal doctrine that protects the rights of victims to kill someone if they feel threatened.

Of course, dogs are not humans, even if they are domesticated, and we do not treat them as such practically or legally.
posted by muddgirl at 2:07 PM on February 18


If the dog has the option of leaving the situation, it should do so.

I've gotten into this argument before and it never fails to surprise me that people expect dogs to bite without being under some extraordinary distress. I've been around dogs plenty. Their physical abilities are such that their temperaments and training must render them completely non-aggressive in everyday interactions with people, or they become dangerous.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:17 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


I've gotten into this argument before and it never fails to surprise me that people expect dogs to bite without being under some extraordinary distress.

I don't see anyone expressing that expectation... for their own pets. As a teen I was bitten, unprovoked, by a territorial dog defending a public sidewalk, so yes, I do expect any strange dog to be vicious, while hoping that they are not ("hope for the best, expect the worst"). My own dogs, I expect to respond as I have trained them to respond while working to keep their environment stress-free.

Their physical abilities are such that their temperaments and training...

Lack of training of both dogs and humans is exactly the problem that these blog posts are attempting to address. Children should be taught to hope for the best and expect the worst, no?
posted by muddgirl at 2:37 PM on February 18


muddgirl: yes, and humans who bite other humans because they were barking go to jail or mental hospitals unless they are so young they can't do significant harm.
posted by tavella at 2:37 PM on February 18


And dogs that bite humans are trained, restrained, and in this case euthanized.
posted by muddgirl at 2:56 PM on February 18


I've gotten into this argument before and it never fails to surprise me that people expect dogs to bite without being under some extraordinary distress.

This is true too. In my entire life I can't recall ever being properly bitten by a dog--by "properly" I mean in a way that was aggressive and not playful. I have certainly had the soft play bite from a dog that's having fun, but that's because I have gotten them all excited.
posted by Hoopo at 3:08 PM on February 18


from the extremely worthwhile "magnetizing" links up above, which are all really worth reading:

“Training,” by definition, should always be focused on influencing future choices. The effectiveness of your training can easily be tested by noticing the choices the child makes for herself — and it can be maintained by reinforcing those good choices. If you wait for children to do what you DON’T want and then tell them to stop, this is neither responsible parenting nor effective training.

We are all are quick to blame “lack of supervision” when there is an incident but, while true that dogs and toddlers should not be left to their own devices, real life brings gaps to even the most vigilant parents. In my opinion, the irresponsibility lies not in the moment of distraction but in the neglect to equip our children with skills and habits that will serve them well. (And, of course, “irresponsibility” is too strong of a word when parents don’t know this. But YOU know it now and you can teach your friends until we ALL know what to do.)

No amount of behavior modification work with the dog is going to be enough if the children continue to pester the dog. Modifying the child’s behavior is always an essential part of success — and it’s not as difficult as it initially appears.


she goes on to reinforce many socialization concepts that my parents diligently reinforced to me as a small child growing up on the farm. I was locked away from / not allowed near sharp tools, or into fertilizer or poisons, or allowed to mess with the fire pit, or anywhere around loaded guns, or allowed to pester the animals, not even the cats. They were all considered hazards worthy of respect and responsible handling.

I grew up training young animals and babysitting small kids. Kids are young animals, and the safest, sanest way of dealing with them is by remembering that and treating them with the same respect, care and consistent boundary enforcement.

and yes, dogs, even the gentlest family dog, will snap / act out aggressively when sufficiently provoked. This is no reason you can't raise kids with them in the house, you simply need to educate yourself to the risks involved and resources available.
posted by lonefrontranger at 3:11 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


muddgirl: As they should be, and relying on 'trained' is a hell of a risk, which no one is obligated to take, especially when it involves their children. I would euthanize any dog of mine that seriously bit a human (ie, not warning nips, but damaging bites), save for those that were protecting themselves from violent physical attack. Which is also the standard legal stance in most of the US. I would not endanger other people for my sentiment.
posted by tavella at 3:31 PM on February 18 [3 favorites]


I was, at age 6 months, the cause of my mother's beloved border collie being put to sleep. She'd lived in a yard once that backed up to a preschool, and being poked and prodded through the fence was enough to make her child aggressive for the rest of her life. Later, I was always carefully supervised around dogs (except the time the neighbor's Norwegian Elkhound got out of her fence and let me bury myself in fuzz) and taught to ask first, let them approach me, etc, but even then I still think my parents were right to put the dog down humanely before we could ever have a dangerous interaction (she was also elderly, but I think that just helped the decision that would have been made anyway be just a little less hard).

The story in the blog post isn't about dog owners versus toddler owners: the parents in the original Facebook post are BOTH. Sometimes, being a responsible dog owner means choosing your kids over your dogs.
posted by theweasel at 3:32 PM on February 18 [4 favorites]


> Sometimes, being a responsible dog owner means choosing your kids over your dogs.

The dog bit their kid, and they almost immediately killed it. Sorry, that's not responsible dog ownership. They should have made the effort to find the dog another home - particularly since it had never exhibited any signs of aggression until being put in an extreme situation.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:19 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


>put in an extreme situation.

I guess many disagree whether a barking toddler is "an extreme situation".
posted by anti social order at 4:24 PM on February 18 [3 favorites]


I found this to be a very useful analogy when working with the dynamics between pets and toddlers:

Don't let your baby be the creepy guy on the train.

The point is that young children are not socially equipped to understand when they are violating a pet's space, and it is up to the parents to manage and shape the behaviors of both until the child is old enough to understand appropriate interaction.

this works both ways IMO, because while your dog maybe lovable, exuberant and the best dog ever, he still doesn't need to be Creepy Train Guy all up in people's junk.
posted by lonefrontranger at 4:29 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


The dog bit their kid, and they almost immediately killed it. Sorry, that's not responsible dog ownership

There is not nearly enough information provided for you to make this kind of judgement. It is, at best, second hand Facebook updates relayed by a biased source.
posted by Hoopo at 4:35 PM on February 18 [2 favorites]


I've owned dogs most of my life. I'm also a petsitter/dogwalker, so I see a lot of dogs (and cats) day to day.

I've never been bitten (knock wood!) though I've had a few close calls. I walk dogs that are not MY dogs quite a bit. One thing I take very seriously is the need to protect the DOG. Too many other dogs and people often want to come up to the dog I''m with. Much of the time I am NOT OK with this. Because even though I get to know some of these dogs pretty well, they're NOT MY DOGS, and I don't live with them and know them well. So I cross to the other side of the street, or I physically move in front of the dog. I'm reasonably fluent in Dog, so I watch very intently any approaching dog, as well as keeping an eye on the dog I'm with.

I'd be a little more sanguine with my own dogs, but I still don't let any Tom, Dick, or Harriet come up and pet my dogs, nor does any dog that wants to come up and say "hi" get to come up to my dogs.

When I lived at home many years ago, I once watched a visiting toddler who was fascinated by our German Shepherd. Smoky, the Shepherd, was not used to little kids. The little girl wanted to sit by Smoky to reach out to touch her. Smoky was a Very Good Dog, but she was nervous, and I could see it. I didn't have the wit at the time to separate them, but I sat very close to them both. When Smoky would give me the "Do I have to put up with this?" look, I'd tell her what a good girl she was. And I was equally telling the toddler "Easy. Easy." Nothing bad happened that night.

Dogs are awesome. They put up with so much from us. Most people have no idea how to live with a dog or how to read what a dog's feeling. I'm fortunate to be able to share my life with them. I'd rather have dogs than kids.
posted by Archer25 at 4:58 PM on February 18 [3 favorites]


1. Be a responsible parent; teach your kids to interact properly with dogs.
2. Be a responsible pet owner; don't let your dog play with kids in a situation that you can't manage.


BOTH of these are absolute must do!

My kids are older, so there's not much "teaching the Monsters about dogs" going on any more, but educating other children about how to treat the Hounds is ongoing, as younger friends and family bring their younger children over to visit. The Hounds, while pretty strong and rowdy, are good-natured beasties who think kids are the greatest things ever. But then, we've spent a lot of time teaching them to be gentle with the wee ones. They will snuffle and wiggle and waggle and bring toys to play with, they will happily run a small child around the yard and wear him out, but we still never allow children to play with them unsupervised. If the Hounds seem like they're getting stressed or tired, they are separated from their new human friends and put in their "den" - my room, their favorite place in the house - with some treats and lavish praise, so they can rest and take a break.

Educating other people's Monsters is a more difficult task. Not so much when they visit in my home, it's pretty straightforward, but when I'm out and about? Oh, LAWDY!

Rocky is exceedingly gentle pretty much always. He has figured out that he's rather large, so when a small child hurls herself at him, he will sit before he commences to power-washing her face. Zoe, OTOH, is still pretty excitable. She's also an American Pit Bull Terrier, so while she's pretty short for her breed, she's got solid steel junk in her trunk. We are teaching her to sit when approached, but she still occasionally forgets and will quickly turn to me to seek permission to play. She's accidentally knocked a couple kids over with her Doggie Ass Of Doom that way. The parents freak out, and it then falls to me to dust the kid off and explain that yes, it's OK to play with my doggie, but you really need to be careful with doggies you don't know. I tell them that you should never run at a doggie, no matter how much you want to pet her, and you should always ask her person first.

I don't mind teaching other people's Monsters. I feel like it's partly my responsibility, since I'm out and about with my beasts, but damn, parents! Keep hold of your Monsters when you see someone with dogs, because not every doggie is going to be down for some impromptu squishinz.
posted by MissySedai at 5:05 PM on February 18 [4 favorites]


purpleclover, those "dog magnetization" links are great, very thought-provoking.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:48 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


agreed Lobstermitten, there is more info there and more depth and value than in the lead links I posted on the FPP. The link to the "creepy train guy" article is part of her training series dealing with how young children can get overly fixated on (magnetized) to the dog but it wasn't included in the series purpleclover listed, and it's a great concept.

It's an important distinction I think. Pets are not stuffed toys. They should be worked with carefully and desensitized, yes, but by the same token they should not be subjected to constant harassment and pestering, no matter how calm they are or how much baby "loves" them.
posted by lonefrontranger at 6:22 PM on February 18 [1 favorite]


Yet they bring them out in public where children are present

I really hate this metaphor because there are tons of dangerous stuff out in the world where children are present: children are expected not to run out in the street in front of cars, to not attempt to hug cacti, etc etc.

I really like the chart and the idea of teaching kids animal body language-- it really isn't super intuitive to kids. I've always liked cats but had no idea how to deal with them as a kid-- luckily cats are both a lot more able to fend for themselves than dogs in a way that doesn't harm people too much, since someone who doesn't really grok how dogs work might not realize that the growl is a warning but it's hard to miss a claw-swipe, so cats don't have to escalate to biting or clawing your eyes out where dogs tend to be a lot more powerful in their first physical attack.

When I was an older kid my family had a dog that was a Labrador/Chow mix that wasn't really socialized much with little kids and didn't much like them. We kept her away from them on walks, naturally, but parents would occasionally let their kids run up and pet her without asking us first and we'd have to be a bit sharp with them to get them to get away without getting hurt. She never bit anyone (well she bit a friend of mine who stuck his face right up to her, because he was being an idiot, but she didn't do it hard and it didn't break skin, just bloodied his nose a bit, and he was a teenager who should've known better), but she did get growly, and it's awkward to have to shoo children away from your dog.
posted by NoraReed at 9:43 PM on February 18


Asking out of genuine, non-axe-grindy curiosity: how does adult dog self-defense against misbehaving human children compare with adult dog self-defense against misbehaving puppies? Do mama dogs snap and bite at their own offspring when they pile on them or mouth them, and do those bites generally break the skin? And if toddlers get hurt by dogs, is that a problem of the dogs treating them more harshly than they would puppies (that is, identifying them as prey/threat rather than social peers), or just a problem of normal canine discipline procedures being apter to harm a delicate human baby than than it would a comparatively-more-resilient furry puppy?
posted by Bardolph at 4:18 AM on February 19


Adult dogs nip puppies for discipline. Their "nips" can be quite hard for human skin (dogs have fur, after all), and can even break the skin if the dog has sharp teeth. Disciplining these nips is one of the things you have to start young, or (some) dogs will often nip at slight provocation. ("You're petting me in an uncomfortable way!") They don't intend to hurt, but simply haven't been taught to do otherwise. Once a dog respects you, they'll stop nipping if you express displeasure with it a few times (with a firm "No, Mabel!", not a swat).

The biggest difference between a puppy (or someone who's good with dogs) and a toddler (or a bad pet owner) is that the latter category requires you to ignore all of the signs of stress in a dog. The dog will escalate her reaction if her master doesn't take action. If the dog is panting, moving away, looking at the stressor "side-ways," and so on, it means she's stressed and expects her master to take action to protect her.

If you don't, chomp.

This is why I think there is a disconnect between reactions here. Many people seem to misunderstand the way dogs act when they're about to bite. If there's no history of aggression and there's no immediate physical injury (as with my story above), an unforeseen bite is really, really unlikely—unless you just don't know what you're doing and ignored all of the signs. I speak for myself, but in this case it feels like putting the dog down means you've failed everyone involved. You failed to protect your child, you took your child's playmate and companion away from him, you didn't manage your dog well, and you didn't listen to her concerns.

It also all ties into a really unhelpful pet-ownership culture, where people just buy this creature thinking of it as a thing that people do, rather than thinking of it as a commitment to a real, sentient being for the next 10-15 years.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:40 AM on February 19 [4 favorites]


I was attacked by an Alsatian that I happened to be walking past on a street. Its owners assured me - after prising its jaws off my forearm - that it was "very friendly" and it had "never done this before".

Everyone is, of course, totally within their rights to anthropomorphise and sentimentalise animals as they want. But I'd never leave a child with a dog.
posted by Pericles at 7:00 AM on February 19


Many people seem to misunderstand the way dogs act when they're about to bite.

Some dogs have shorter fuses.
posted by Hoopo at 1:26 PM on February 20 [1 favorite]


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