Man’s Best Friend Can Be Child’s Worst Enemy

In the United States, having a dog in the home is considered a completion of the family unit. Many dog owners find themselves attached to their furry friends in a deep way.

But this special connection can often cause the owner to forget that their best friend is still in fact an animal; designed to operate off instinct.

When an animal is domesticated and trained, it has the ability to behave in a way that is desirable by the owner. But this ability does not supersede instinct—it only suppresses it.

Of course all dog owners want to think their family pet as safe. You watch your children playing with Fido and smile, truly believing that all is well. Truth is, you are playing the odds.

The CDC reports:

Approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur each year in the United States. It may surprise you to know that over half of dog-bite injuries occur at home with dogs that are familiar to us. Among children, the rate of dog-bite–related injuries is highest for those 5 to 9 years old.”

A study titled “Breeds of dogs involved in fatal human attacks in the United States between 1979 and 1998”, and published in the September 15, 2000 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, reports:

“At least 25 breeds of dogs have been involved in 238 human DBRF (dog bite related fatalities) during the past 20 years. Pit bull-type dogs and Rottweilers were involved in more than half of these deaths. Of 227 reports with relevant data, 55 (24%) human deaths involved unrestrained dogs off their own- ers’ property, 133 (58%) involved unrestrained dogs on their owners’ property, 38 (17%) involved restrained dogs on their owners’ property, and 1 (< 1%) involved a restrained dog off its owner’s property.”

This report exposes some alarming statistics. There are many more dog bites, and dog bite fatalities, than the public is made aware of.

It also shows that Pit bull varieties and Rottweilers should be watched more closely when around children, or not be around children at all.

It would be wise to note that most dog attacks take place on the owner’s property while the dog was unrestrained. This means the attacks have occurred while a pet dog was just innocently—or so you’d think—running around the house.

According to the report, 70% of dog-bite related fatalities were with children, proving there are many more precautions one should take when having children playing around, or playing with, dogs.

Several dog attacks have occurred this summer alone, with some proving to be fatal.

NBC News reports:

Manor police officers were called to Callan Court for a report of a dog attack just after 8 p.m. on July 3. The child was playing in a yard when the dog, described as a pit bull mix, ran out of a house as its owner opened the door. Home security video obtained by Manor police shows the dog chasing the child and attacking him as he tries to run away. The owner of the dog is seen following the dog and trying to pull his dog off the boy, police say, describing the attack as “unprovoked.””

The Pit bull mix was relinquished by the owner to the police and will stay in a facility under rabies-watch for a week before it is put down.

But the general public remains under the assumption that when a child is attacked by a dog, they did something to provoke it.

However, when looking at the statistics and recent dog attacks on children, we see this to not be the case. A dog could be triggered by an instinctual urge that we play no part in.

Unlike the Manor boy, a Phoenix baby did not survive after being attacked by the family dog. The baby was lying on the couch when the Rottweiler unsuspectingly mauled him.

US News reports:

“Authorities say an 18-month-old boy has died after being attacked by the family’s dog in south Phoenix. Phoenix Fire Department officials say the baby was attacked about 1 p.m. Friday for an unknown reason. The child was taken to a pediatric trauma hospital in extremely critical condition and later died. Fire officials say the Rottweiler belongs to the child’s father. The dog reportedly has been the family’s pet for the past three years.”

Leaving a baby unattended with any animal is never okay. Even running to the restroom for only a moment leaves room for foul play. And in Tucson, Arizona, a mother did just that.

Relay Hero reports on a mother who left for the bathroom while her 3-day-old baby was on the couch:

“What the mother didn’t know is that the two family dogs were in the house. The dogs killed the baby while the mother was in the other room. They had dragged the baby from the house and were mauling her in the front yard when her uncle saw them and started yelling.”

The newborn did not survive the attack. The devastated mother thought the baby would be safe for the few moments unattended.

And in Maine, a 21-month-old was mauled to death by the family’s German-Shepherd mix while out if town.

Boston reports:

“The child’s parents told police that the dog had not been aggressive before the mauling. It happened while the family was visiting relatives in Bangor.”

A history of aggression in a dog is a sure sign that you need to keep children away.

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But as we see here, it does not always matter if they have shown aggression in the past. Precautions need to be taken with children and dogs no matter the circumstance.

The children in these reports did not have an opportunity to do anything about their dog attacks, but you may.

If you are attacked by a dog, the CDC recommends these basic safety tips:

  1. Remain motionless (e.g., “be still like a tree”) when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
  2. Curl into a ball with your head tucked and your hands over your ears and neck if a dog knocks you over.
  3. Immediately let an adult know about stray dogs or dogs that are behaving strangely.

Teach your children these basic guidelines to protect themselves if they encounter an aggressive dog.

With these statistics and stories coming to light, you may think that a family should never own a dog, which is certainly not the case.

Having a family pet can teach responsibility, provide companionship, and possibly even protect the family from intruders.

The urge is that a dog’s nature should never be taken for granted. They have the capability of being aggressive and deadly.

When considering a family pet, take into consideration breeds that have a tendency towards aggressive behavior. Their spontaneous instinct could arise at the most unfortunate of times.

Be cautious when allowing your child to be around a dog that is unfamiliar. Smaller dog breeds have less capability of causing traumatic injuries.

Most importantly, no matter how well you think you know your dog, never leave a child unattended with them.