Trapped Dog Bites Child while Adults Snooze

boston terrier

Second in a series

I was not scarred for life when Buster the Boston bit me but it was certainly an eye-opener on canine and human behavior. All 4 parents leapt out of their chairs like they’d been shot from canons. Fusillades of reprimands descended upon poor Buster, now cowering even deeper into his erstwhile hideaway. An immediate consequence was essential. Vicious dogs would not be tolerated! Solutions were bandied about like a ball in a free-for-all tennis match, emotion-driven remedies masquerading as informed logic bouncing off the walls. Give Buster away? Put him to sleep? It was overwhelming; I too was trying to get small. An ice pack to my cheek deescalated the crisis.

We’ve learned a lot about these child – dog debacles. In her seminal research paper, Behavioral characteristics associated with dog bites to children, Dr. Ilana Reisner found that, “Children are the most frequent victims of dog bites presenting to hospital emergency departments.” Of the 203 youngsters in this study, 51% were under age 7 years; 55% were male. The biting dog was known to 72% of the children. Most bites to younger kids occurred during positive interactions, initiated by the child with stationary, familiar dogs indoors. That sounds just like me and Buster.

It could be argued that my face bite was actually my fault, not Buster’s. So what could I have done differently? Gimme a break, would ya? I was only 4 years old. I hadn’t even started kindergarten. But if I knew then what I know now I would have taken a moment to observe before rushing in. Buster had sought safety in a snug, secluded den-like space next to his person’s feet. As this marauding 4-year-old advanced, the poor dog was stuck in a corner with no escape. His fearful signals could have/should have been respected.

Buster’s people weren’t paying attention. They thought their dog was trustworthy with kids. Clearly, I wasn’t the only knucklehead; the grown-ups didn’t have a clue either. Well, we know what happens when we assume.
Next week: I was one lucky kid. We can do better.
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Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Post pet behavioral or physical questions on or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.