Q. Our Chihuahua bites when she’s scared. We adopted her because we wanted a small dog that could travel with us when we visit our grandchildren, but now we’re worried she’ll bite them. We’ve hired a trainer, but how do we train our grandkids to be safe around her?
Your question is a timely one; National Dog Bite Prevention Week begins Sunday. And children are the most frequent dog-bite victims. Here are 10 safety measures behaviorists recommend:
• Never leave toddlers or infants alone with any dog.
• Don’t mess with a resting dog — no petting, poking, prodding, etc.
• Not your dog? Don’t hug or kiss him. As with humans, getting personal can be misinterpreted.
• Want her to move? Don’t grab her by the collar or scruff.
• Don’t interfere with a dog who is eating, chewing a toy or otherwise occupied with a precious resource.
• Need to get something away from her? Don’t grab it; trade it for a scrumptious morsel instead.
• Is he trying to get away from a scary situation? Don’t try to restrain him. He might lash out in fear.
• Don’t corner her. You’re scary when you do that.
• Don’t get into a staring contest, especially not when your face is close to his. It might be interpreted as a threat.
• Never purposely hit or scare a dog. It’s not just dangerous, it’s really bad karma, too.
Children should also be taught how to identify an aggressive dog: Growling and barking are obvious signs, but dogs can also display aggression by yawning, wagging a stiff tail, backing up, licking their lips, lowering their heads or even by rolling over on their backs.
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice in South Miami and blogs at www.dolittler.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or Dr. Dolittler, Tropical Life, The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132.