Once again, a video is making the rounds on Facebook showing a very active toddler hugging, sitting and bouncing on the side of a Rottweiler who has been commanded to lay on the floor.
To the unknowing eye, the dog looks like a saint. It lies there as the toddler bounces up and down on his ribs and loin area. The child is even encouraged to give this dog a kiss. He willingly obliges-smooching the dog on the muzzle.
This situation is however, anything but saintly. It's just one minute and forty-five seconds of increasing stress and anxiety for the dog. It's a bite or worse in the making.
The adults in this video encourage the child to continue inappropriate and probably painful interaction with this dog, all the while, the dog is begging for someone to make the toddler stop.
Dogs communicate through body language and this dog is screaming for help. How do we know this dog is acutely stressed? The answer comes in many actions:
- Open mouthed panting.
- Tongue flicks (no fewer than 16 times).
- Whale eyes (you can see the white of the eye).
- Head tilt.
- He tries to remove himself from the baby.
- Shakes his head.
- Open mouth-stretched back lips.
- Pulled back ears.
- Closed mouth.
Luckily for the dog, the toddler grew tired of the game and left. The dog could have bitten, he was growing more anxious and stressed by the second. To the unknowing eye it would been the bite that ''came out of nowhere''. No warning. No indications. No nothing.
The dog could have lost his life that day. He could have gotten to the point where his instincts, due to the extremely big stress he was feeling, kicked in. He had tried to flee and his owner called him back and commanded him to lie down on the floor where the baby was.
How much more did the dog have to say to get relief of a situation he was not comfortable in? Sixteen tongue flicks and more than nine other cries in one minute and forty-five seconds. But no one listened.
If you have little children and dogs, it is your responsibility to keep the interactions safe. There should only be interaction when the dog can be watched closely for signs of stress. If the dog wants to remove itself from the situation, please let it do so!
Children need to be taught that animals are to be treated nicely and with respect.
Above all, please spend a few minutes learning about dog body language, it could save your dog's life.
Jan Gould, KPA CTP
KPA, CTP: Karen Pryor Academy, Certified Training Partner
Knowledge, training and teaching assessed.