Monday, May 26, 2014

Dog Bite Prevention (though sometimes, you can't)

We've all heard about cases where a dog has bitten a child. Arguably, too many cases. Funny for me to say, perhaps, being a Dog Person™, but obviously, I can explain.

Lots of dog bites you hear about seem, from the outside, to have been completely unavoidable. Small child left alone with dog, child starts crying, dog has attacked the child. No adults there to see what happened. These cases are, in my mind, the fault of the adults. Dogs should not be left alone with tiny children. Tiny children do unreliable, misunderstandable things. Tiny children have little to no intent in their actions. Dogs, in general, have a specific set of reactions to stimuli.

Oh yeah, and last week was Dog Bite Prevention Week.

(drawn by Lil Chin)

Some dogs have never been around children, and so have no idea how to appropriately react. Some dogs have a VERY strong prey drive, and have never been around children, and so have no idea how to appropriately react. Some dogs are just plain Dangerous, be it through poor breeding or something medically/mentally wrong with them. It happens. It isn't the dog's "fault", per se, but there are times there is literally nobody else to "blame".

The most recent case on everybody's minds and Youtube shares and whatnot is the little boy in California. He was minding his own business, tooling around in his driveway on his little bike, when a neighbor's dog, loose, comes trotting along. I've watched the video MANY times. The dog is walking, clearly alerts that he's noticed the boy (maybe because of the bike noise? I don't know), the dog goes around an SUV, walks up in front of the boy, bites him, shakes him, drags him. The boy's cat, Tara, comes from off screen and piles into the dog with all four feet and chases after him. The boy's mother comes to his aid, and then leaves him. This is because the dog was coming back, and the dog then bit her as well.

The neighbors saw all of this happen. The neighbors called 911, and surrendered the dog, who has remained unnamed in every bit of media I've seen, who is in quarantine for 10 days (I guess they're unsure of his vaccinations?) and will then be euthanized. This dog is 8 months old, a chow/lab mix from what I've read. For behavior like this to come from a puppy is unsettling; typically "true aggression" will present in adult dogs. It's possible for his aggression to have had a medical cause, thyroid issues or something, but we might never know the answer to that.

When I watched the video the first time, it was presented as "cat defends boy from dog", and I thought perhaps it would just be kind of a cutesy thing. The Internet is full of them. Right up until the bite happened, I kind of thought "oh, maybe the dog is just greeting the boy and OH GOD." Because to me, other than being "too intent", he didn't show much in the way of signs. Because he's got mid-length hair, I couldn't see piloerection. He was closed mouthed to begin with, so maybe he became further hard mouthed? His ears didn't much move. His tail was up, not really wagging, and went horizontal just prior to the actual bite. He wasn't, that I can tell, visibly snarling. Enough signs were there, I suppose, but who expects the neighbor's dog to soundlessly (I think?) charge your kid while you're watering some plants?

from a 2012 article on dog bite prevention 
 I don't know what the child or his mother could have done to prevent the bite on their end. Maybe the little bike was the "trigger", but your kid should be able to ride a bike in his own driveway without being afraid of a dog attack. Maybe the dog should've been better socialized. The dog certainly should've been better contained, but the fact he was loose was an accident (he got out of the gate as the car was being put away, or something similar). Thanks to Tara the cat, the little boy will be okay.

Strangely, people are flocking to the dog's rescue, and animal control is being flooded with requests to adopt him. There are dogs who are essentially blameless in their bites on children; in my opinion as an Internet Professional, this is not one of them. There are plenty of dogs with no aggression, no bite history, no problems at all who are in shelters right now. Those dogs need homes. This dog, I feel, just needs peace from whatever it was drove him to attack a child.

Edited to add: Here's a link to the video of the attack, if you want to watch it. It could be construed as disturbing, between the attack and the picture of the wound on the child at the very end, so I recommend personal discretion.

This is a fairly comprehensive article on the whole situation. Frustratingly, when the mother talks about her children's behavior towards the cat (in general, not post-attack) she talks about how the kids manhandle the cat "as you'd expect". Sounds like many teachable "nice to the kitty" moments have blown past there. According to this article (which names the biting dog Scrappy; funny we didn't know his name until he was euthanized. Which he has been), Tara the cat puts the family dog "into place" on occasion. I really really really hope the family dog gets better treatment than Tara, or there's going to be more bite incidents in that household.


  1. “My kids are absolutely awful to her. They tug on her tail, they pull on her ears, they try to lift her up and carry her around..." I agree with you, let's hope they treat the family dog not like Tara, the cat. Have a good Memorial Monday, Elka&Mom.

    1. And I hope they get better educated about how to treat Tara!

  2. I always wonder about the motives of people who want to adopt a "famous" dog, or in this case an "infamous" dog.

    1. I do too. It's as though it never occurs to them there are PERFECTLY NORMAL animals which need them. Just the sensationalist cases.

  3. A really sad story and video. I really like that first graphic you posted, very informative.

    Wags to all,

    Your pal Snoopy :)

  4. I haven't watched the video and I don't think I will, but I really enjoyed reading your view on it. Sad that the parents have let the children treat the cat that way instead to teaching them how to respect a pet. That bothers me a lot. Teaching kids how to interact with pets starts at home and should be a direct reflection on the parents.

  5. I continue to be very alarmed (and just posted about such on Twitter) that nobody seems to recognize how clearly un-rehabilitatable this behavior is. That dog is clearly acting out a hunt/stalk/kill scenario. It doesn't just want space. It hasn't been bothered. There is no visible warning. Something is wrong in that poor dog's brain that training is not going to fix.

    But, having a psychological mess of a dog has made me, maybe perversely, incapable of believing that every problem can be solved by dog training.