Never leave children alone with dog, veterinarians warn

Staff ~ Transcontinental Media
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Montreal -

After hearing about Monday's fatal dog attack on a helpless infant in a small Quebec community, Montreal-area veterinarian Amanda Glue found herself thinking about a conference on animal behaviour she attended six years ago.

The conference topic: Would you leave a child alone with your family dog?

About 80 per cent of the veterinarians in attendance raised their hands to signal that they would. Then, Glue said, they were treated to a slide show with more than 100 horrific images, the human carnage from dog bites and maulings.

Many of the dogs had belonged to veterinarians and veterinary technicians.

"It was a visual 'oh my God,' moment," said Glue, a veterinarian at the Hudson Veterinary Hospital who also teaches at Vanier College.

"I think I had let my own guard down," she added, saying that she altered her own behaviour after that conference, crating her dogs rather than leaving them unsupervised in the presence of her own children. Even for a few brief moments.

The reasons became abundantly clear this week with the death of a three-week old baby girl mauled by one or two huskies when left briefly unattended by her young mother in a house in St-Barnabe-Sud, a small community about 60 kilometres north of Montreal.
While it has become commonplace to give dogs people names like Jack or Bill, deck them out in designer duds and treat them as part of the family, the bottom line is that a dog is a dog. Children should never be left unsupervised with one, no matter what its size or breed, animal behaviour experts caution.

Some animal adoption agencies will not place a dog in a home with young children for this very reason.

Children under 10 often lack the maturity to see when this natural instinct has been triggered. A dog's stiffened posture, forward lean and straight tail are all giveaway signs to an adult.

But they can be missed by a child.

In addition, that very prey drive can be triggered by a child's rambunctious and unpredictable behaviour, or an infant's flailing arms and cooing sounds.

Of the 25 fatal dog attacks in Canada between 1990 and 2007, 85 per cent involved children under the age of 12, said Enid Stiles, a veterinary behaviourist at Montreal's Sherwood Park Animal Hospital. The median age of those victims was five, she said.
Caution must be exercised when young children and infants are around dogs, especially strange dogs, said Stiles.

"We know that any dog -even the most kind sweet dog - can bite," she said. But "if we are there to supervise," those situations can be prevented.

Fatal dog attacks are not common and the circumstances around this week's tragedy involving an infant are "extremely rare," she said.

Stiles said she also worries many dog owners with young children will become fearful that their animals cannot be trusted or think they have to give up their pet dogs, especially if they are huskies.

Dogs that are socialized, fed well and supervised by a caring adult make wonderful pets that teach children about responsibility and companionship and, Stiles said, parents must not lose sight of that fact.

Education is the key, said Michel Gosselin, a veterinarian at the DMV Veterinary Centre in Lachine, Que.

Dogs lack the ability to see the full range of human behaviour as belonging to the same non-threatening, non-prey species.

"To a dog, an infant, a child, an adult, an old person, a woman, a man, they are all different beasts," Gosselin said. "Even race can change a dog's perception."

Rather than placing the onus on dogs to stop being dogs, Gaby Popper, a Montreal-area animal trainer said the responsibility lies with dog owners, who he says are all too often foolhardy.

"You shouldn't leave a three-year-old unattended period . . . Never mind unattended with a dog," Popper said. "You don't trust a child's judgment about anything else. Why should we trust them to be alone with a dog?"

Organizations: Vanier College, Hudson Veterinary Hospital, Sherwood Park Animal Hospital DMV Veterinary Centre

Geographic location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada Lachine, Que

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • kyle
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    to steve;

    really - I mean really. Not all dogs are bad and of course no child should be left alone. However if someone does not like my dog - I am NOT hiding my dog away to make them feel comfortable - thats there problem - especially if its my house, my car etc; My dog is part of my family. What about those that hate kids - should I hide my children away when certain friends come over that think my children are loud. And although the dog is part of the family - he is disciplined and does not run me or the house. Its the owners not the dogs.

  • cathy
    July 02, 2010 - 13:29

    Its not the dogs fault for being a dog, it is us humans who are at fault.Why people leave kids alone with dogs is beyond me....i have a dog and will never leave her unattended with kids or people she doesnt know.I just dont know how she will react. The bottom line is NOONE should leave their children alone with a dog no matter how sweet and kind you think the dog to be.

  • Georgina
    July 02, 2010 - 13:28

    Couldn't agree more. Well said.

  • Stormy
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    Kelly, I absolutely agree with you.

    And I absolutely trust my dog, who is a great, big Labrador Retriever. If I could trust him to be gentle with a crazy kitten that I took in (that often grabbed him by the snout and bit/clawed him in play), I'm sure I could trust him with a child. As a matter of fact, even as a puppy he was very gentle with toddlers, didn't jump on them/knock them over, allowed them to grab his tail, etc. Not all dogs are alike.

    I don't like these broad, sweeping statements being made about all dogs. Dogs are products of their environment much like children. Training your dog, as well as providing it with love and most importantly, respect, yields fantastic results.

  • Steve
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    How many confirmed deaths have been by dogs ? How many confirmed deaths have been by pesticides ? Want to protect your children in a very real and tangible sense ? Allow the use of pesticides and ban dogs.

  • Kelly
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    Steve,
    What happened is very sad and I am sure the parents, like the vet, did not think for a moment their dog would hurt the baby. Seriously, I think that you stating you are the problem and this is why things happen is a bit of a stretch. People love their animals and they are part of the family, and yes, like children, they need discipline.

    I love both children and animals, and trust me, there are times when I wish people would lock their kids in a room vs. their dog. I also once had a nosey neighbour who would drop over all the time and wanted me to put my dog away. I did the first couple of times but then I decided I preferred my dog's company over the nosey neighbour and would no longer put my dog away - guess who stopped visiting!! :) Maybe you are the uncomfortable person at your friend's house and they want you to leave...

  • Whaddaya At ?
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    @ Steve. The quickest way to get on the outs with your neighbours is to say something negative regarding their precious dogs. You're not supposed to have a problem with dogs barking non-stop every day of the week or barking at their owner's door for 45 minutes to get back in the house. How about dogs barking everytime a car door closes or everytime you pull in your driveway ?
    One can't fault the dumb animals, it's their dumb, inconsiderate, redneck owners who don't give a $hit. The ratio of dogs to humans in certain areas of Mt. Pearl must be close to 1:1.

  • Steve
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    Why are intelligent people so prone to stupidity when it comes to their dogs? I have friends who have dogs and when it comes down to it the dogs run their lives. Dogs are animals and should be treated as such; they need to be diciplined and if somebody is around you who is uncomfortable around your dog...put him in a room or the like until the person who is uncomfortable. I know for sure there will be somebopdy who will say to this comment maybe the person should leave. Guess what? Yep, you are the problem and you are why things like this happen.

  • kyle
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    to steve;

    really - I mean really. Not all dogs are bad and of course no child should be left alone. However if someone does not like my dog - I am NOT hiding my dog away to make them feel comfortable - thats there problem - especially if its my house, my car etc; My dog is part of my family. What about those that hate kids - should I hide my children away when certain friends come over that think my children are loud. And although the dog is part of the family - he is disciplined and does not run me or the house. Its the owners not the dogs.

  • cathy
    July 01, 2010 - 20:17

    Its not the dogs fault for being a dog, it is us humans who are at fault.Why people leave kids alone with dogs is beyond me....i have a dog and will never leave her unattended with kids or people she doesnt know.I just dont know how she will react. The bottom line is NOONE should leave their children alone with a dog no matter how sweet and kind you think the dog to be.

  • Georgina
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    Couldn't agree more. Well said.

  • Stormy
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    Kelly, I absolutely agree with you.

    And I absolutely trust my dog, who is a great, big Labrador Retriever. If I could trust him to be gentle with a crazy kitten that I took in (that often grabbed him by the snout and bit/clawed him in play), I'm sure I could trust him with a child. As a matter of fact, even as a puppy he was very gentle with toddlers, didn't jump on them/knock them over, allowed them to grab his tail, etc. Not all dogs are alike.

    I don't like these broad, sweeping statements being made about all dogs. Dogs are products of their environment much like children. Training your dog, as well as providing it with love and most importantly, respect, yields fantastic results.

  • Steve
    July 01, 2010 - 19:54

    How many confirmed deaths have been by dogs ? How many confirmed deaths have been by pesticides ? Want to protect your children in a very real and tangible sense ? Allow the use of pesticides and ban dogs.

  • Kelly
    July 01, 2010 - 19:52

    Steve,
    What happened is very sad and I am sure the parents, like the vet, did not think for a moment their dog would hurt the baby. Seriously, I think that you stating you are the problem and this is why things happen is a bit of a stretch. People love their animals and they are part of the family, and yes, like children, they need discipline.

    I love both children and animals, and trust me, there are times when I wish people would lock their kids in a room vs. their dog. I also once had a nosey neighbour who would drop over all the time and wanted me to put my dog away. I did the first couple of times but then I decided I preferred my dog's company over the nosey neighbour and would no longer put my dog away - guess who stopped visiting!! :) Maybe you are the uncomfortable person at your friend's house and they want you to leave...

  • Whaddaya At ?
    July 01, 2010 - 19:47

    @ Steve. The quickest way to get on the outs with your neighbours is to say something negative regarding their precious dogs. You're not supposed to have a problem with dogs barking non-stop every day of the week or barking at their owner's door for 45 minutes to get back in the house. How about dogs barking everytime a car door closes or everytime you pull in your driveway ?
    One can't fault the dumb animals, it's their dumb, inconsiderate, redneck owners who don't give a $hit. The ratio of dogs to humans in certain areas of Mt. Pearl must be close to 1:1.

  • Steve
    July 01, 2010 - 19:44

    Why are intelligent people so prone to stupidity when it comes to their dogs? I have friends who have dogs and when it comes down to it the dogs run their lives. Dogs are animals and should be treated as such; they need to be diciplined and if somebody is around you who is uncomfortable around your dog...put him in a room or the like until the person who is uncomfortable. I know for sure there will be somebopdy who will say to this comment maybe the person should leave. Guess what? Yep, you are the problem and you are why things like this happen.