Buddy & Porky’s Pet Health: When a Good Dog Bites

Dear Porky & Buddy,

Help! I am so upset. Harry, my good old fat lazy black lab just nipped at my neighbor’s four year old when he walked up to him and started to pat him on his muzzle. He has NEVER done anything like that before. In fact, he has been around my kids all his life and has always seemed to enjoy their attention. My neighbor is demanding that I do “something” about Harry, but I have no idea what to do. Thank goodness the little boy wasn’t hurt, only frightened, but is this a serious problem do you think?


Dear John,

Dog bites are a serious problem. Every year in the United States many thousands of children are bitten or attacked by dogs. Sometimes these dogs are strangers, but, more often than not, they are family pets or the pets of close relatives or friends. The results can be tragic for both children and pets, and even when injuries are not serious, children can be left with a lifetime fear of dogs.

It is hard for us to tell you what went wrong with Harry, because we weren’t there, but here are some clues. You mentioned that Harry is getting older. Is it possible he was snoozing and was startled by the little boy? Is it possible he is getting a little deaf and didn’t hear him coming? Maybe it’s time for a checkup with your vet to find out if the aging process made him a little less resilient to the surprises that toddlers can deliver. And if that is the case, you can make the adjustments necessary to monitor what and who he is exposed to more carefully.

You also mentioned the toddler patting him on the muzzle. Actually most dogs HATE that, especially when strangers do it, as it is not comfortable and sometimes seems like a sign of aggression. Think about how you would feel if your dog walked up and started banging you on the top of your nose! It is amazing to us how often people who really love dogs don’t seem to know how to act around dogs, even their own dogs, and how many aggravating things they do to dogs—taking their food away, waking them up suddenly from a nice nap, teasing them, being rough with them—and then they are surprised when their dog reacts. We are not accusing anyone of being intentionally mean here, just pointing out that it is really important for all dog owners to have some basic knowledge about how to interact with dogs in safe ways.

Do yourself and your neighbors a favor and download a copy of the Humane Society’s “Be Safe With Your Best Friend” coloring book for them to give to their toddler and begin to teach him how to be safe with all dogs. You will probably find some helpful tips too. You can download it at www.oswegohumane.org/HumaneEducation.htm

If Harry hasn’t gotten too crabby, dress him up as a big black dog and bring him to the Humane Society’s “Howl-a-ween” Adoption Party on Wednesday, October 20th from 6 to 9 at the Oswego Elks Club, 132 West Fifth Street, Oswego. Not just the costume contest, with prizes for the funniest, most creative and best human/dog combo, but also “spooktacular” pets for adoption, cider and donuts, hors d’oeuvres, face painting, games for kids, cash bar. This is not just ‘witchful’ thinking! Get into the spirit and come on by for a howling good time! Our orphans are looking for their ‘mummies!’ Free and open to the public.

The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County. Our office is located at 265
West First Street, Oswego, New York. Phone (315) 207-1070. Email:[email protected] Website: www.oswegohumane.org.