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Image by Jf Brou

Dog Watching - The Wolf Among Us

by Domena

Dogs and Kids:  A Perfect Combination or a Nightmare?  


You might be lucky enough to have grown up with a loving dog, or maybe you spent your childhood longing for one.  Or maybe you were one of the many children bitten by a dog?


Likely, your early experiences formed your relationship with dogs, for better or for worse. Now, as an adult, you might find yourself faced with a dog acting aggressively towards children, or with a child so highly attracted to dogs that it is hard to hold her back!


Bite statistics bring unfortunate news. In Canada, one of out every two children has experienced some form of dog bites by the age of 12. Although most of these bites don’t require medical attention, many leave psychological scars. Roughly 3/4 of these bites are from dogs with whom the child is familiar, i.e., a dog that is owned by family, friends, or neighbours. While shocking, this also tells us that most of these bites are preventable.

Our best approach is education!


Education for people: Bite Prevention Programs teach kids and guardians helpful skills, some as simple as: Ask before approaching or petting! Ask the owner first, then ask the dog!  The way to ask a dog is to respectfully stay at a distance and wait, then read the dog’s response: Is the dog welcoming us in or telling us to cut it off? Cut-off signals are easy to recognize once learned; it’s good for people to recognize these signals before the situation escalates into a threat or a bite.  Next time on the ferry, take one of the body-language cards from the back notice board!


Education for dogs: Just as with people, early experiences form lasting impressions in dogs. Ideally, a puppy has many happy experiences with children, from babes in arms to toddlers and onwards.  The very best and easiest education happens in the first 3 months of a dog’s life, i.e., during the critical Canine Socialization Period. If early socialization is missed, dogs will likely react fearfully or aggressively towards the unknown – in this case, children. Luckily, we can help these dogs become more accepting of children through the Behaviour Modification program.  The latter gives us tools to change a dog’s behaviour as well as its underlying emotions.

Change can happen, but it takes specialized help, the right skill set, determination, time and other resources.

Thank you for open eyes and minds! - Domena

P.S. Invite me to a Bite Prevention Presentation!

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