The years have not fared well for our dogs, only a generation ago things were very different. Our dogs are now blamed for all our short comings, this is not the case with nearly every other animal.
Let me explain. Back in the 1980’s I was bitten (minor) by a dog. Owned by my great uncle, this old dog, probably a kelpie or lab x, was laying down under a table, I pulled up a chair and sat down. The dog bit my ankle as I scooted my chair forward. The outcome…. I was told to be more careful of the old dog, and the adults were right. I was old enough to be more careful, but hey I was still a kid and they should’ve helped me navigate this situation better.
Imagine this happened today, how would it look? I can see the dog being scolded, possibly the dog banned from visiting my Nanna’s house as he was unsafe or even worse. When did the blame shift? Why is it now our dog’s who can’t ever say “no” or “I’m scared”?
Yes, our dog’s need to be better socialised and educated about kids, but more so, our kids need to be educated on how to be around dogs. My daughter is 3yo. We live with 3 dogs, all bigger than her. You can ask her how do we pat a dog, her answer: “with 1 hand”. I love that she knows this, I love that this is how she practices patting the dogs.
Why should our kids pat a dog with only 1 hand? This offers our dogs an escape route. Dog’s don’t like hugs (hug being a two-arm connected embrace – not a general term for affection). It’s too enclosed for them, not a way they would engage with each other. I have repeated this with her since she was born.
Let’s look at other animals. Cats live in our homes just as dogs do, but we still seem to acknowledge that our cats are animals not little humans. I have seen plenty of “funny” videos of cats attacking people, including kids, online and even on Funniest Home Video type shows. There has never been a human killed by a cat attack itself and maybe this is the difference. But the infection of a cat scratch/bite can be very severe and can require hospitalisation. Cat attacks don’t make the news, they don’t result in mandatory euthanasia.
How about horses. I grew up around horses, people are still very aware that horses are animals and are going to act like animals. In just the past few months there has been some coverage about 2 horse bites. 1 girl lost an ear and a boy nearly lost his life following a bite to the neck. These are horrific examples, but at no time did I see anything about euthanasia or even a backlash of people wanting to ban the ownership of big horses, certain breeds or muzzling.
I think blame shift has happened in other ways too. teachers will know what I mean. A generation ago it was up to the family and child to get better grades, now it’s the teachers fault. Maybe it’s the culture we live in, but while we shift the blame of dog bites just to the “bad dog” that bit, we don’t fix the ongoing problem. We don’t educate our kids, we don’t stop the next bite, so the cycle continues.
As part of dog bite prevention week, get your kids and together watch the following 2 videos.