According to British physicians, adults should be more vigilant when young children play with dogs. Last year, over 4,000 Brits were admitted to hospital for dog bites. That is almost double the number treated ten years ago! The alarm has already been sounded here at home. Although it is difficult to accurately identify the number of dog bite injuries in Quebec, it is estimated that there are roughly 117,000 each year. A substantial number indeed! And over half the victims are actually younger than 10 years old. In two-thirds of cases, the children actually knew the dogs that bit them. They were either the family dog or they belonged to close relatives.
A dog that is well treated and cared for usually makes a safe and reliable companion. But all dogs are liable to bite if they are mad, upset, scared, hurt or feel threatened. These pets also have strong territorial instincts, be it for their food, toys or territory.
British researchers who studied the statistics on dog bites concluded that it is primordial for children to learn not to tease dogs or approach those they do not know. This may help prevent a child from inadvertently triggering an attack. Children should also be taught to treat man’s best friend with respect, to avoid making direct eye contact, to let a dog sniff them before petting it, and not disturb it when it is eating, sleeping or caring for puppies. But because most bites occur when children are left unsupervised, it is important for adults to keep their eyes open and be more vigilant.
Dog owners should also change their attitude. According to one of the authors of the study on the British phenomenon, we must stop blaming the dogs themselves. We need to focus instead on the person who holds or does not hold, in many cases, the other end of the lead. As most dog bites happen when children are not supervised, it is essential for dog owners to be responsible for adequately training and supervising their animal. Having a dog requires a lot of time and energy. If you have to leave your dog locked-up or chained for twelve hours a day, perhaps it is time to re-evaluate your commitment.
Although we usually love our dogs so much we consider them to be part of our families, they can still be unpredictable animals.