Last week I had the funniest incident to date involving a child wishing to pet my dogs but it also brings up something serious: dog bite prevention. Kids are cute, dogs are cute, together they are cuteness squared, but that temptation to capture the perfect picture or upload the next viral video often overrides good judgment. Children are the most at risk of dog bites, and it is up to us as responsible owners to mitigate that risk. One of the easiest ways to do so is not to allow random kids to pet our dogs if we have the slightest hesitation about how they might handle it.
My dogs have had very little experience with kids. Ruby is reactive and unpredictable, doing best when people come to our house but on high-alert outside the home. Boca doesn't worry me very much but when since I usually walk both girls together, her exposure to kids and strangers is limited. She does get nervous about people looming over her or reaching over her head. Boca did wonderfully at Blog Paws and also spent some time with my friend's 3-year-old daughter on our recent road trip. She was sweet and gentle with the little girl; however, several times when the hugging and kissing got too much she would move away. My friend and I took the opportunity to point out Boca's body language to her daughter and explain that Boca didn't want any more hugs or kisses right then. It can be hard to tell a child "no" when all they want to do is love on a dog. I was an animal-crazy little girl myself, but I grew up with a dog that was afraid of children and was taught about boundaries and body language at a young age. Even as an adult I tend to be very reserved around other peoples' animals.
I do notice that more and more kids ask before running up to my dogs; however, as the inadvertently hilarious exchange below proves, they don't always take no for an answer...
Scene: A warm evening in the townhouse complex, a woman walking her two ridiculously cute red-and-white dogs. She sees a cluster of girls on bicycles - stationary for now - and hurries to get the smaller dog out of sight of the bicycles. The larger dog would of course take a poop right this minute, and in the midst of picking it up and holding two leashes, one of the girls breaks from the herd and pedals industriously toward our frantic trio. The woman scoops up the smaller dog in the nick of time, with some miraculous third arm and strides away at a breakneck pace.
Little Girl [pedaling]: Can I pet your dogs?
Woman [fleeing]: No, sorry, she's afraid of bikes.
Little Girl [pedaling] [possibly mistaking "bikes" for "bites"]: It's okay, I've been bitten before!
Woman [fleeing]: Oh, dear! Well, we have to go for now.
Little Girl [pedaling]: Do they both bite?
Woman [fleeing]: Neither of them bite, but we are trying to get away from your bike!
Little Girl [pedaling]: I can get off my bike!
Woman [fleeing]: No, sorry, better not!
I had to admire the girl's perseverance - she clearly loved dogs despite having a previous negative experience (although perhaps not used as a teaching moment by her parents). Maybe she'll grow up to be a trainer or vet tech! I laughed most of the way home, replaying the incident to The Ginger Sisters like the crazy dog lady I am. I felt bad telling her no...repeatedly...but as my dogs' advocate I have to protect them from even the cutest, most determined children.