Monday, June 11, 2012

Learning From a Dog Bite

We teach dog safety to children, but I often think we need to teach adults as well. It's particularly frustrating when a bite is avoidable. My dad's friend got a nasty bite over the weekend that wasn't entirely his fault. There were three contributors to the dog bite: the owner, the dog, and the Good Samaritan. 

The dog's owner took his dog to a busy park, tied him up, and walked off out of sight of his dog. The dog, in his panic, got himself completely wrapped around the tree with his leash. He couldn't move. There was little shade and it was a hot day.

Enter the good samaritan who wanted to help the poor dog. He stood with the dog for ten minutes waiting for the owner to return. When the owner didn't show up, he decided to help the distressed dog as the whining, panting and drooling were too much for him to witness any longer.

Let's look at this from the dog's perspective for a moment - you're panicked because your owner isn't around but a bunch of screaming, rowdy kids are, you're hot, you're exhausted, you're thirsty, you're tangled up in cord next to a tree, and suddenly a very large man that you don't know is reaching for you. You have no way to get away from him. What do you do?

The dog bit, which isn't surprising of any dog in this situation. The bite was quite severe as it was a large breed dog. It was severe enough to land him in the emergency room for 35 stitches. Before you guess at breed - it was a purebred lab. The man said that he helped the lab because it wasn't a "dangerous breed." Which is why labeling a dog based on breed is so dangerous. Thirty some stitches later and he has learned the painful lesson that the breed doesn't matter.

We need to look at situations and read body language. Nothing is more disturbing than reading an article about a dog attack and then skimming the comments that say things like "This is unusual for Boxers", "This is out of character for a Lab," etc. It is NOT out of character for ANY breed. All dogs bite. We shouldn't have to get bit to learn that lesson. Instead of looking at the breed, we need to pay attention to body language.  Any breed of dog that is incredibly stressed out and scared, as this dog was, will bite.  It's a natural reaction.

The man at the park had his heart in the right place. He saw a dog in distress and wanted to help despite knowing the dog was upset. Unfortunately, he had a false sense of security thinking a dog's breed made him safe even in an unsafe situation. A safer option would have been calling animal control, and letting professionals handle a potentially aggressive animal. The dog's owner likely thought he was doing a nice thing for his dog bringing him to the park. But when in public, it's our responsibility to keep our dogs under our supervision at all times. It's scary to think what might have happened if it was a young child who wandered up to the unattended dog to pet him. Dogs have done such an amazing job at adjusting to life with humans, that we often take their patience for granted. While tolerating stress is a spectrum, every dog has their limits. We're reminded the hard way when we ignore or test those limits

1 comment:

  1. Coming from someone who grew up in a family that loves dogs, I would probably find it hard to stop myself from helping that distressed dog. That dog bite incident involving your dad's friend is just unfortunate. It is also a wake-up call about the risks in approaching a strange dog. To be on the safe side, it may be best to stay away from dogs that are not accompanied by their owner.