Friday, December 24, 2010

Dogs Don't like Hugs and Kisses

Dogs Don't Like Hugs and Kisses!

This is one of Doggone Safe's major messages and probably the one that gives us the most trouble. Many people simply don't believe this and are determined to argue about it.

Some dogs are very tolerant and will allow hugging and kissing, some try to get away, some lick the face of the hugger until they let go and some resort to biting. Some rare dogs do enjoy hugs from a person that they love, who scratches their chest while hugging and who doles out hugs on the dog's terms. There are few if any dogs who enjoy hugs the way kids do it, which is to clasp the dog around the neck and hang on. This is very threatening to a dog. The fact that the dog is uncomfortable or even feeling a threat and the proximity of the child's face to the dog's teeth makes this potentially very dangerous. This is why we recommend that parents teach children to show affection to the dog in ways that do not involve hugs and kisses.

In a study that looked at the reasons for dog bites to children the following was found:
Familiar children were most commonly bitten in relation to food or resource guarding and “benign” interactions such as petting, hugging, bending over, or speaking to the dog.
Read the whole study report. This is something that dog trainers and behaviorists know without having to see any data. From their experience they know that this is a major cause of facial bites and they know from the behavior of dogs that they rarely enjoy hugs and kisses. Author and dog behavior expert Patricia McConnell says in her wonderful book "For the Love of a Dog" that she has at least 50 photos of kids hugging dogs and in not one of them does the dog look happy.

A recently published children's book entitled "Smooch Your Pooch" recommends that kids hug and kiss their dog anytime anywhere. We regard this as dangerous advice and so does the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior and Veterinary Behaviorist Sophia Yin. Dr Yin says:
While this adorably illustrated book, with its sweet, catchy rhymes, is meant to foster affection for pets, the contents as well as the cover illustration teach kids to hug and kiss dogs; this can cause dogs to react aggressively. No one knows that better than Dr. Ilana Reisner, a veterinary behaviorist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Reisner and her colleagues published a study examining why children get bitten by dogs. Says Reisner, "The recommendations in this children's book -- and even the title of the book -- are potentially dangerous."

That's because many dogs do not like being petted or hugged. They just tolerate it -- at least temporarily.
Read Dr. Yin's article about Smooch Your Pooch and why it is not good idea to encourage kids to hug and kiss dogs.

If you are a person who thinks that your likes hugs and kisses, you can find out for sure by learning about dog body language and observing your dog to see how he reacts to hugs. Visit our website to learn about the signs of an anxious dog and see if your dog exhibits any of these while you are hugging him.

Even if you have one of those rare dogs that does enjoy hugs from your or from kids (very unlikely), there are times when the dog will be less tolerant than at other times. The dog may tolerate or even enjoy a hug on his terms, but sometimes he will not be in the mood. Here is how we explain this to kids:
When you are home at night watching TV or reading a bedtime story you might like to sit on your Mom or Dad's knee or have them whisper "I love you" in your ear or give you a kiss. However if you are out on the soccer field or at school with your friends or acting in the school play you might not want to sit on a parent's lap or have them run out in the middle of the game or the play to whisper in your ear or give you a hug and a kiss. It's the same for dogs. If they are busy doing something, or interested in another dog or a squirrel, or they are tired they may not want to have attention from you that they might enjoy at other times.
The dog that is most tolerant is the dog that is most likely to be subjected repeatedly to unwanted attentions. Dog and child relationship expert Madeline Gabriel calls this "the curse of the good dog". Click here to read more about this important concept and how you can protect your good dog from this curse.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

New Dog Bite Research

Two new studies on dog bites have been reported recently.

A Review of 100 Dog Bite Cases in British Columbia - reported on CTV News
"Doctors at a B.C. hospital say children must be taught about the dangers of strange dogs, so that they stay out of harm's way and away from the operating table.
A group of doctors have reviewed more than 100 cases in which a dog bit a child.They found that children tend to get bit in the face and most often by a dog they know. In over half of the cases, the attacks are unprovoked."
We doubt that the statement that the bites were unprovoked is true. Dogs always bite for a reason and they warn in some way first. Sometimes the warning is very subtle and this is why Doggone Safe teaches children and parents how to read dog body language and understand the often subtle signs that dogs send when they are anxious and thus more likely to bite.

The study found that most of the bites were to the face and that most of the dogs that bit were known to the child. This is consistent with the findings from previous studies and underscores the need for parents to supervise, recognize the signs that a dog does or does not welcome attention from children and prevent interactions that could lead to a bite.

Most of the bites were to the face which suggests that the child's face was too close to the dog. Doggone Safe wants parents to teach children that dogs do not like hugs and kisses and that they should keep their face away from the face of a dog, even their own dog. Read our advice for parents.

In an interview Dr. Farrah Yau indicated that many children suffer from post traumatic stress disorder after a dog bite. Visit our victim support page for information about the importance of emotional counseling for children after a dog bite and how parents can help their child.

Holmquist L. and Elixhauser A. 2010. Emergency Department Visits and Inpatient Stays Involving Dog Bites, 2008. Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Statistical Brief #101.

This report considered data on emergency department (ED) visits and hospitalizations for dog bite from US healthcare databases.
"The estimates in this Statistical Brief are based upon data from the HCUP 2008 Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS) and the 2008 Nationwide Emergency Department Sample (NEDS). Historical inpatient data were drawn from the 1993–2007 NIS. The statistics were generated from HCUPnet, a free, online query system that provides users with immediate access to largest set of publicly available, all-payer national, regional, and state-level hospital care databases from HCUP."
An article describing this study published in the New York Times said the following:
"The number of Americans hospitalized for dog bites almost doubled over a 15-year-period, increasing to 9,500 in 2008 from 5,100 in 1993, a new government study reports. The increase vastly exceeded population growth, and pet ownership increased only slightly during the same period, said the report’s author, Anne Elixhauser, a senior research scientist with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality."

Some key findings were as follows:

  • The average cost of a hospital stay for a dog bite related injury was $18,200, which is about 50% higher than the the average injury-related stay.
  • The number of dog bite related hospital stays increased from 1993-2008
  • The incidence of hospital visits for children was higher than for adults

Read the full report

Read the NewYork Times article about this report

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Review of the Clicker Puppy DVD in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

This independent review of the Clicker Puppy DVD was published in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

Did you know that young children can train puppies as well as, if not better than, adults can? I didn't--at least not until I watched the Clicker Puppy DVD! When we bought our new puppy this year, I thought the best way to train him would be signing him up for doggy obedience classes. I also thought that only one person training a dog was preferable. Turns out both assumptions were wrong!  [Editor's note - the Clicker Puppy DVD recommends that puppies go to obedience class in addition to training at home]. Clicker training is a science-based method that uses positive reinforcement to teach your dog. In my family's experience, using this method has been easy, gentle, and yes, even fun! The DVD is just under 50 minutes long and guides you step-by-step on how to train your puppy. One of the best things about this presentation is that all the training is done by children with puppies who are learning it in real time. It is amazing how fast the puppies learn from the children using just a clicker (which you can purchase from the website) and some treats!

There is so much included in the DVD! In addition to demonstrating what clicker training is and how to do it, the video shows children teaching commands such as sit, down, roll over, come, off, jump over an obstacle, and retrieve. Because the presentation is done without rehearsal, you'll see common problems crop up and observe how to solve them--a huge advantage compared to just reading about it!

One of the things that proved particularly helpful in training our own puppy was the section titled "Training Tips." We learned why it's helpful to train close to the puppy's dinnertime, what the "3-try rule" was, why training with two people is better than one, and how and why to avoid negative reinforcement. In addition to this bonus track, there are three others included: using clicker training with rabbits, how to read a dog's body language in order to stay safe, and a method of clicker training used with people called TAGteach (which you may form a positive or negative opinion of, but is nonetheless interesting).

My family found this DVD to be a very helpful tool for training our puppy and reinforcing what he's learned. Having something like this on a DVD is so useful because it demonstrates techniques that are best learned visually. Watching other children training different puppies gives my kids the confidence to do it too, and it is wonderful to be able to return to the DVD whenever we need a refresher on something!

I highly recommend Clicker Puppy to anyone who wants to train a puppy using positive reinforcement that yields great results!

Product review by Dawn Peterson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, May, 2010 

The Clicker Puppy DVD is available in the Doggone Safe store. Doggone Safe recommends clicker training as a fun and safe way for children to help train the family dog.
Here is a clip from the Clicker Puppy DVD:

Here is another clip:

Friday, November 26, 2010

Review of the Doggone Crazy! Board Game in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

This review of the Doggone Crazy! board game was published by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine:

Doggone Crazy! Family Fun Action Game is a unique and informative game that aims to teach children how to be safe around dogs. While the game is meant to be played by all ages, its main focus is on helping children to "read" the body language of dogs and know how to respond appropriately in various situations.

The object of the game is to collect as many dog bones (small cardboard punch outs) as possible, moving around the board by spinning the arrow to reveal the number of spaces in which to move forward. Each spot along the way gives some kind of direction on what to do next. Players might answer a true/false or multiple choice question on a Do-Do-Do It card, view a picture of a dog on a See-See-See-It card to try to guess if it's either safe or dangerous, collect a bone, etc. The player that collects the most bones wins, however, the real goal is what is learned during the course of the game.

I'll start with a few of the cons, even though they are minor, and then share what I liked about this game. Because the focus of the game is on teaching bite prevention, there is some over generalizing reflected in some of the answers on the cards. For instance, one of the photo cards shows a dog on a bed with a relaxed, non threatening posture. However, because the rule is, "Stay away from dogs on beds or furniture," the dog is to be considered dangerous, despite that the card says it's a known dog and an adult is present. While I can more than appreciate the better safe than sorry mindset (I use it often as a mom), I prefer not to teach my children that something is an absolute when it's clearly situational. And while I also understand the use of the terms "dangerous" and "safe" for the sake of clarity, especially with younger children, I'm not fond of my children thinking that when Grandma's golden retriever sits on their couch or rests on their bed, he should be considered a threat to their safety. There are other scenarios like this in the game, so when we come across them, we talk about when it might be true, when it might not be, and how to discern the difference.

Another con is that the game does run a bit long, about 45 minutes, so younger children might lose interest before it's over with (like mine does).

Regardless of these small drawbacks, both my kids and I have learned a lot of very useful information about dog behavior! I especially appreciate the See-See-See-It cards with photos of dogs and kids, as it is a wonderful way to observe and discuss a dog's body language before encountering a similar situation in real life! I love that it teaches them how to observe and really think about whether or not a dog is safe to approach, knowing that they will be able to call upon what they've learned and seen in order to discern what to do. I plan to use just the cards for review every now and then, as I think it will be a great way to reinforce the information. Both the Do-Do-Do-It and See-See-See-It cards can even be used on their own, and easily be incorporated into a more basic game for the sake of brevity with younger ones.

Another helpful aspect is that various age and comprehension levels aren't overlooked. For instance, the Do-Do-Do-It cards contain multiple choice scenarios which have answers based on the ages of the player (2 options for 4-6 year olds, 3 options for 7-10 year olds, and 4 options for 11 and older). Spaces on the board are color coded (red means bad interactions with a dog, green means good interactions) as well as other symbols that help a non reading child to know what to expect as they move around the board. There is even a "Simon Says" feature which is especially fun for the younger set.

It is very clear that the creators of this game put a great deal of thought into making it both fun and educational. One clever play in the game is when a player lands on a "Be a tree" space, and everyone has to jump up and assume the tree pose (illustrated right on the board). Whoever is fastest gets a bone. If a player fails to get up in time, they are "bitten" and end up in the "hospital" where they are hindered in advancing around the board for the next 3 turns. Obviously the goal is in training a child to stand immediately still in the most non threatening posture possible if they encounter an overly excited or hostile dog - a helpful thing to have practiced if ever it's needed.

The Doggone Crazy! Family Fun Action Game is very thorough, informative and fun! If you're looking for a creative way to teach your children how to be safe and confident around dogs, this is a great tool!

Click here for more independent reviews of the Doggone Crazy! game. 

We hope you will help us spread the word by buying Doggone Crazy! as a gift for a child this holiday season, and by suggesting it to others.

In the US you can buy it through:

Karen Pryor Clickertraining

The Humane Society of the US Youth Division

In Canada:
Doggone Safe store (Ontario and Quebec)

Outside North America:

Karen Pryor Clickertraining

The game is also available in some local stores. Click here for a list.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Helping Lost Pets

by Rob Goddard

If you have ever lost your pet, you know the instant panic. It can happen to anyone. Even well trained dogs can be spooked and run in fear. Be sure to have a tag with your contact information on your pet’s collar as well as have your pet micro-chipped. These are the two best actions you can take to ensure you find your pet.

But a chip can malfunction and a tag can be lost and for pets that have neither, then what?

It’s a fact that 1 in every 5 pets will be lost at some time in their life. There is currently no central place to post a lost or found pet. Frantic owners post on countless websites, send emails and spent hours putting up posters. There’s no easy way to contact people willing to help in the area where the pet was lost.

My solution to the problem is to merge technology and dedicated pet lovers. The first release of Helping Lost Pets or HeLP has been launched. HeLP is a central online database where lost or found pets can be posted. It features a map so you can visually see where the pet was lost or found. The database can be searched by breed, colour and other parameters.

The second part of the solution is the people. There are thousands of shelters, rescues, veterinarians, trainers, dog walkers, day cares, pet stores and pet lovers that already help when a pet is lost. A central database means the efforts provided by these willing volunteers will be more effective. People can set their user profile to alert them when a pet is lost in their area. Or they may choose to receive an alert about a specific breed of pet. Users can look on the map and immediately locate the nearest pet business to them also.

HeLP also allows you to enter your pets profile into the database at any time along with a picture and set the status of your pet to Safe. If your pet is ever lost, you can change the status to Lost and within minutes posters and alerts will be on their way to other HeLP members in that area.

The key to making HeLP a success is to build the membership base. It’s easy to use, it’s powerful and it’s also free. And with features like organizing a search party, and a mobile app for your phone, HeLP is available to help you if you ever loose your pet. To view pets that need to find their way home right now, please visit

About Rob Goddard

Rob is a software developer and also President of Helping Homeless Pets.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Making the Doggone Crazy! Board Game

People are always asking us how we came up with the idea for the Doggone Crazy! board game and how we went about making it, so here are the answers to these questions!

I met Teresa Lewin (dog trainer and behaviour consultant) when I took a puppy to her obedience class. Teresa invited me to come with her to do an education session at a local school. We did a few of these and took our dogs along to show the kids. Teresa would point out the body language that the dogs displayed. It occurred to us that the dogs were not reliable in presenting the body language that we wanted to demonstrate. Sometimes they just slept through the whole thing! We took some photos and made them into large posters so that we would be able to show the key body language signs in a planned way and not just when or if the dogs happened to offer them. This was the start of the Be a Tree program.

We looked into what else was available for educating kids about safety around dogs and we found lots of lists of things that kids should not do, but we didn't find anything that taught kids about dog body language. This was in 2002, so before the current body language craze. We didn't find anything that taught kids about reading the emotional state of dogs, other than the obvious signs of a very angry or fearful dog. We didn't find anything about how to know what your own dog is thinking and how to be respectful of his feelings so that he doesn't get pushed to the point having to growl or bite.

We discovered that not only did the kids not know about dog body language or to stand still if a dog is threatening or a strange dog approaches, the teachers and parents didn't know either. We realized that we couldn't possibly educate a large number of people one classroom at a time so we thought that if we made a game with lots of pictures, we could get the message out to more families.

Us watching the first game boards being printed
We took lots of photos of dogs and designed a game board and made up lots of questions and answers. All the artwork on the game board was done by our kids using carved rubber stamps. We discovered that if you want the words to come out forwards, you have to carve it backwards into the rubber! The kids also helped with photo shoots and by playing the game over and over to test it. They helped make up questions as well. The "dangerous" situations that are depicted on some of the cards were set up using our own well-trained friendly dogs or were created by the magic of Photoshop.

All the photo cards and the game board were made with Photoshop. The prototypes all had cute dogs playing pieces made from Fimo by the kids, but unfortunately it was too expensive to make custom playing pieces in the final manufactured game. We made a bunch of prototypes by hand and we sent them out for review by all kinds of experts and to several game testing families. We took all the feedback and made all the suggested changes. Everyone loved the game and so we decided to take it into production.

Fimo dogs ready for the oven

Our main purpose in creating the Doggone Crazy! board game was to provide a fun and interactive way for kids (and parents) to learn about dog body language, learn to act safely around dogs and to practice being a tree to increase the chance that they would do this in real life. We have had lots of emails from parents telling us that their child (or even themselves or their husband) remembered to Be a Tree in a real-life situation with a strange or threatening dog and the dog went away, just as we said it would. Read some testimonials here.

Here is our video that we made to promote the game. This was made using one the prototypes, so it shows the cute dogs pieces that we didn't end up using in the final game and it also shows a dog tail for the spinner. In the actual game we had settle for just regular plastic arrow because the custom dog tail would have been too expensive. None-the-less the video gives a good explanation of how the game works.

We hope you will help us spread the word by buying Doggone Crazy! as a gift for a child this holiday season, and by suggesting it to others.

In the US you can buy it through:

Karen Pryor Clickertraining

The Humane Society of the US Youth Division

In Canada:

Doggone Safe store (Ontario and Quebec)

Outside North America:

Karen Pryor Clickertraining

The game is also available in some local stores. Click here for a list.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Public Service Announcements for Child Safety Around Dogs

Doggone Safe has produced a number of Public Service Announcements (PSAs) for radio that are available for download. Some of these are recorded and ready for play and some are scripts for live reads. In the US and Canada licensing requirements for radio stations stipulate that they must donate a certain amount of air time to PSAs. Quite a few of our PSAs are holiday themed and now is a good time to approach your local radio station to see if they might be interested in having some holiday PSAs that are a little different from the norm. This is a great way to get a mention for your business on the radio... as in: This message brought to you by Dottie's Doggy Daycare.

Here is the link to download or just listen to our PSAs:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Association of Professional Humane Educators - A Wonderful Resource

Have you heard of the Association of Professional Humane Educators (APHE)? If you are a humane educator or anyone who does community outreach for a humane society or any group that educates the public on issues related to animal welfare or the human-animal bond, then you will want to find out more about the APHE and become a member. The APHE is made up of a wonderful group of caring people who are eager to help their communities and their fellow educators. The APHE website provides terrific resources for members and their Yahoo group and annual conference are accessible to anyone who wants to learn and contribute.

Members enjoy discounts from various organizations, access to the membership directory, the Pack Rat newsletter and access to a list of resources.

Please visit for more information.

Join the APHE Yahoo group for access to information from other humane educators. Examples of the some of the topics that have been discussed include: dog bite prevention programs, choosing videos for motivating teens to become involved with animal welfare, best activities for animal-based summer camp, how to motivate volunteers, Boy Scout projects to help your shelter, activities for kindergarten children on the topic of caring for animals, educating youth to prevent dog fighting, favorite books for kids and lots, lots more.

You don't have to be a member to join the Yahoo group: Joining that Yahoo group is a great way to get your questions answered and find out more about what humane educators do.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Praise for Basic Dog Body Language Online Course from the Latham Letter

The Latham Letter published this wonderful review of the Doggone Safe Basic Body Language online course in its fall edition:

Media Review: Basic Dog Body Language Online Course
By Judy Johns

Recently I had the pleasure of reviewing the Basic Dog Body Language course, one of several excellent online courses that are a joint effort between Doggone Safe and Doggone Crazy! This is an amazingly thorough and useful course, whatever your existing knowledge might be. I highly recommend it because it emphasizes both safety and empathy for dogs.

As creators Joan Orr and Teresa Lewin explain, “The Basic Dog Body Language online course answers the question “do dogs have feelings?” and describes many dog body language signs that help us understand what dogs might be feeling. The course covers individual body parts as well as overall body postures. You will learn how to look for clues in each body part and to look for clues in the environment to help figure out how a dog might be feeling and why he might have those feelings. There are many photos and videos that illustrate dog body language with explanations and interpretation. “The information presented in this course is important for two main reasons: 1) safety and 2) developing empathy for the dog. Dogs that are anxious are more likely to bite than dogs that are happy. It is important for anyone interacting with a dog to be able to look at the dog and know whether the dog is happy and will welcome the interaction or is anxious and may feel the need to defend itself by biting. We all want our dogs to have a happy life and not be anxious or unhappy. By learning to speak dog, we can more readily understand what the dog is feeling and take steps to reduce anxiety that we may be inadvertently causing for our dogs.

Understanding the dog better leads to the development of empathy for the dog and this in turn leads to a better relationship and a better life for the dog. The observation skills that you will develop from taking this course will be helpful in interactions with dogs, other animals and people too!

“This course qualifies for continuing education credits from many professional dog training and veterinary technician organizations.”

Basic Dog Body Language
Course site:
Teacher: Teresa Lewin
Cost: $30.00

For more information about the Latham Foundation please visit

For more information and reviews of this course please visit:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Report from Liberia Animal Welfare Society on World Rabies Day Events

We were very pleased to receive this report from the Liberia Animal Welfare Society on their World Rabies Day Events. The Liberian Animal Welfare Society is a volunteer group that is making a huge contribution under difficult circumstances toward rabies reduction and awareness and education of children and families about safety around dogs in Liberia. We hope you enjoy reading this report and are impressed with these tremendous accomplishments...

Liberia Animal Welfare Society, (LAWS), World Rabies Day Celebration

September 28, 2010. Report Date: October 3, 2010

LAWS wants to be grateful to all the citizens of Vezala Town, Voinjama District and the local government officials of Lofa County for all their supports in making the celebration a successful once. LAWS wants to also extend especial thank and appreciation to the two schools in Vezala (Vezala Public School and Vezala Mission School) for their tireless effort and total involvement in the celebration.

Due to lack of resources to celebrate the day in the three cities: Voinjama, Kolahun and Foya as planned, LAWS was able to fully celebrate the day in Vezala, Voinjama. The celebration in the other two cities was done through a Talk-show with the local radio stations there.

In Vezala, 800 people including, children, women and men took take in the celebration. LAWS was able to vaccine 450 dogs and 50 cats against rabies. With the effort of LAWS` volunteers, LAWS was able to raise USD 400 locally from the volunteer’s contributions and other animal lovers. The fund was used to provide food for the audiences, posters with rabies messages and pay for the interview held with the radio stations. LAWS again wants to thank Veterinarians Without Borders, USA for their donation. The rabies vaccines used were donated by VWB,USA to LAWS.

The program started with a parade at 8:30AM at Vezala Public School toward the town hall.

The theme of this day celebration was `` Kick Rabies Out of Liberia``.

At the indoor program, the Regional Coordinator made a speech about the important of government including animal health in our health policy.

Below is the summary of the speech made by the Regional Coordinator of LAWS, Mr. Morris Darbo:
I thank all the audiences who are here today for the world rabies day celebration. Today is the first in the history of Liberia for world rabies day to be celebrated in the country. This event marks the beginning of creating real awareness about this neglected disease (rabies). As we read the theme: Kick rabies out of Liberia, it involves collective efforts from schools, community members, NGOs, the government, etc. The issue of rabies has been neglected in all levels of our society. We can only kick rabies out of Liberia, if we all consider rabies as a threat to the wellbeing of humans and our pets. We can not promote the health system of this country if we neglect the health of other living creatures (animals). We can only live in a health society if the welfare of every living creatures matter.

Today, there are lot zoonotic diseases which are common in our society. Our government needs to include animal health into our human health policy. Our pets are our relatives; they are part of our families. In some of our homes, we sleep in the same rooms with our pets. That is normal in our culture. So we need to protect them too. They need to be included in our health policy. Their welfare needs to also be prioritized by the communities, by the county and by our government. We can only reduce the spread of rabies in our communities if we regularly vaccinate our dogs and cats against rabies. We can not do this without the availability of veterinary facility with rabies vaccines. The government needs to put in place a veterinary facility that can do this. We need to include humane education in all our schools. If people are inform and aware of how to care for the animals, they will know the problems face by the animals.

In some communities where there is an outbreak of rabies, instead of vaccinating the dogs and cats against rabies, the local authorities usually order the killing of all the dogs. Killing all the in a community can not stop the spread of rabies. It can only cause an influx of dogs from surrounding areas to fill the void.

In 2008, there was an outbreak of rabies in Foya city and some people died as the of dog bite. The district authorities ordered that all dogs be killed. There was a group organized to kill any dog they see. The group went from house to house killing dogs. After three months, there was an influx of dogs from surrounding towns and villages. Today, Foya has lot of stray dogs again. At the beginning of this month, September, a 13 year old boy died from Foya as a result of dog bite. The act of killing dogs to control the spread of rabies is very common in all parts of the country. Still every year, people die from dog bite in the country. We can not eradicate rabies by killing all the dogs. We need to regularly vaccinate our dogs and cats against rabies. We also need to know how to control the spread of rabies.

As LAWS join other organizations around the world today to celebrate the world rabies day, Sept. 28, 2010. LAWS will continue every year to celebrate this day in different parts of the country to create real awareness and educate the public about this deadly neglected zoonotic disease (Rabies) that continues to take the lives of many people in this country.

I want to again say a big thanks to every one here today.

Morris Darbo, Regional Coordinator of LAWS

Dramas and Poems

Two dramas and two poems were performed at the program by students from the two schools. Below are the titles of the dramas and the poems:

1. Consider animals in development (Drama)

2. Treat our animals with respect (Drama)

3. My dog is my relative (Poem)

4. My dog and myself depend on one another (Poem)

The Voinjama District Commissioner made a remark at the program.

He thanked LAWS for organizing this meaningful and educative program in his area for the betterment of his people and their pets. He said that what he learnt at the program will not be for him alone and his people. He said that he will educate his colleagues districts commissioners and his boss (The Superintendent of the County) that the method of killing dogs to stop the spread of rabies should eliminated from all parts of the county. He promised that they in government and his people will continue to collectively work with LAWS in addressing the issue of rabies in the county and the country at large.

He also made a request to LAWS that since the government is unable now to provide rabies vaccines in the county, LAWS should please continue her effort in appealing to donors and other organizations to continue to help promote the welfare of the people and animals in Lofa County. He concluded by saying that his office is open to LAWS for any dialogue for the well being of his people and their animals.

Free Rabies Vaccination Campaign

At the end of the indoor program, LAWS volunteers started a free rabies vaccination campaign from house to house vaccinating dogs and cats. All the town people appreciated the work of LAWS. 450 dogs and 50 cats were vaccinated against rabies.

Rabies Day Photo Album

This report was compiled by:

Korpo Masan.
Assistant Coordinator for programs
Liberia Animal Welfare Society,
Voinjama City,
Lofa County,

Doggone Safe Holiday Dog Bite Prevention Tips

Holidays Are Stressful for Dogs

The holidays are especially stressful for dogs due to changes in routine and the comings and going of visitors. Many dog bites happen at this time of year.
When visiting a house with a dog, children should be taught not to approach the dog (even if the dog has been friendly on other occasions). If the dog comes to them they should stand still like a tree and let the dog sniff. Only if the the dog is wagging and panting and coming to them for attention, and parent and dog owners are supervising and have given permission, should a child touch the dog. Dog owners should gauge their dog’s reaction to visitors. If the dog is overly excited, barking or growling, cowering away, trying to hide or otherwise showing signs of anxiety or aggression, the dog should be kept separate from visiting children for the ENTIRE DURATION of the child’s visit. The dog should have its own place in a crate or another room with toys, a bone to chew on and its special bed or blanket so that it can be happy and comfortable and away from guests. Even dogs who seem happy with visitors should never be alone in the room with visiting children. No preschooler, toddler or baby should be allowed to be near your dog unless you personally also have your hands on the dog and can prevent face to face contact between child and dog and can prevent the child from hugging or otherwise bothering the dog.

Greeting People at the Door

Dogs should not be allowed to greet visitors at the door. This is for the safety of the dog and the visitors. Keep the dogs in separate room or crate until the visitors are settled and then allow the dog to say hello if appropriate. If you are not sure about your dog, then leave him confined or keep him on a leash. Make sure that the dog associates visitors with something good for the dog, such as special treats or a stuffed bone.

Not the Time to Train the Dog

If you do perceive a problem between your dog and visiting children - THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO WORK ON IT. It is not reasonable to use visiting children to help train your dog. Take preventative measures to ensure that your dog does not have the opportunity to bite and once the holiday season is over seek the help of a dog behavior specialist who uses positive reinforcement methods to solve the dog's problem.

Family Gatherings

Family gatherings at a relative’s house are the source of fond memories for many. The relative’s dog may not enjoy these events as much as the rest of the family. Noise, confusion and changes in routine are stressful for dogs. Even a normally calm and docile pet may become agitated enough to bite under the extreme circumstances of a boisterous family celebration. Supervision may be lax if each adult thinks that another is watching the children. Children are the most likely victims of dog bites in this situation. Doggone Safe offers the following tips:
  • Put the dog in his crate with a bone or favorite chew toy, at least during the most hectic times – guests arriving and leaving as well as dinner preparation and serving.
  • Assign one adult to be in charge of the dog, to watch for signs of stress and protect from unwanted attention from children.
  • Signs of stress include: The dog yawns or licks his chops.The dog shows the white part of his eye in a half moon shape.
  • If the dog shows any of these signs, then he is worried and wants to be left alone. Put the dog in his crate or in a room away from the guests with a favorite chew toy or bone.
  • If the dog licks his chops, yawns or shows the half moon eye when a child approaches or is petting him, intervene immediately and ensure that the child cannot access the dog.
  • Do not allow visiting children to hug the dog. Dogs don’t like hugs and kisses. Even if the dog tolerates this under normal circumstances he may not tolerate this from strangers or in a high stress situation with lots of noise and people.
  • Other signs that the dog does not welcome attention from children (or adult) guests include the following:

  • The dog turns his head away, walks away or tries to hide under furniture.
  • The dog freezes and becomes very still, with his mouth closed. He may be staring intensely at the person who is bothering him and may growl. This dog is a few seconds away from a bite.
  • The dog growls or raises the fur along his back.

  • Assign one adult to supervise each baby or toddler with no other tasks expected.
  • If you have multiple dogs, consider kenneling them, crating them or keeping them in another room during large gatherings.
  • Supervise at all times.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What to do if You Are Attacked by a Dog: Advice from a Lawyer

We recently discovered the blog of New York lawyer James Reed of Ziff Law, which has some great advice for dog bite victims that we wanted to share.

If you have become a victim of a dog attack, there are some steps that you should take.
  • First, seek medical attention. Whether you call 911 or go to the hospital on your own, DO NOT WAIT.
  • Second, call the police or animal control as soon as possible to let them know that you were attacked. It is especially important to call the police or animal control quickly when the dog is loose or you do not know who it belongs to; a prompt call may allow them to find the dog. Unfortunately, without the dog or knowledge of who owns dog, treatment may be more difficult for you, others may be in danger of similar injury and future legal proceedings may be impossible.
  • Third, when speaking with police, animal control and medical providers, ask for documentation. If no documentation is available at the time, ask for report numbers or names of the individual you are talking to. Fourth, document your injuries, medical visits and experiences through pictures and notes. This will help you remember what you’ve gone through as a result of this injury and may be of help in future legal proceedings.
  • Finally, do not hesitate to contact an attorney that specializes in this type of case. Most clients feel that having someone going through the process with them is immensely helpful.
In a recent post Mr. Reed explains what happens in the legal system and what the difference is between a dangerous dog proceeding and a civil case. He summarizes this as follows:

The dangerous dog proceeding and the civil case have different effects on the parties involved.  There are a few main differences:
  1. A dangerous dog proceeding may impose for some restrictions on the attacking dog, e.g., requiring a leash, muzzle or training and, in extreme cases, euthanasia; a civil case cannot impose restrictions on the attacking pet.
  2. A civil case allows for more compensation for a dog attack; a dangerous dog proceeding allows only costs to be covered.
Surprisingly, there is also some overlap between dangerous dog proceedings and civil cases. A finding of a dog as dangerous can be helpful in establishing vicious propensities of the dog in a civil case.

Can I proceed with both? It is possible to proceed with both. In fact, many people often find it satisfying to proceed with both because they are able to be involved in protecting others from a similar experience by helping to impose controls on the attacking pet as well as making sure they, as a victim, are fully compensated for their injuries and losses.
This article has been written to give you a very basic idea of what to do if you have been a victim of a dog attack.  Being such can be a very traumatic and difficult experience.
For more information, here are links to Mr Reed's blog posts for dog bite victims:

“Dangerous Dog Law in New York State: The Basics Explained by NY Dog Attack Lawyer”

“Vicious Propensities: Dog Owners’ Liability and Responsibility to Spot Warning Signs of Attack”

“More About Dangerous Dogs: What to Do if You are a Victim of a Dog Attack”

For more information about what to do after a dog bite please visit the Doggone Safe website at:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Lingering Effects from a Dog Attack - How to Help Your Child

By R. Larry Schmitt, M.D. Child Psychiatrist

Resistance, both conscious and unconscious, may
provide a useful, protective defense from psychological pain. Yet, it is often destructively attached to a false attitude or belief, impeding us in important endeavors. Such appears to be the case with the reluctance of many parents to seriously consider the enduring emotional impact of a dog bite on their child.

The initial protective reflex can be understood as the parents’ desire to avoid and deny unseen harmful consequences beyond the visible physical wounds. People automatically strive to initially minimize a trauma in most circumstances. The family’s or neighbor’s dog, more often than not, inflicts the wounds. This is as if the wounds were caused by a family member or friend. In addition, it is the rare parent who feels no responsibility for the attack. Both facts create additional explanations for resisting, avoiding and denying the possibility of serious latent injuries to the bitten child.

The typical child, following the attack and its physical repairs, observes his parents’ unhappy responses whenever the attack is recalled. Children avoid intentionally causing their parents any unhappiness. Consequently, the bitten child rarely if ever mentions the event.

The majority of these accidents involve children under age ten. Most attacks involve the child’s body above the shoulders. Adults forget the perceptions they had as children of the “bigness” of their former world. As adults we require extra thoughts and sensitivity to retrofit our minds to capture the child’s everyday sense of smallness and vulnerability even before an accident. Attacks to the face and head leave the child with frightening memories the child is reluctant to consciously recall. They may appear through nightmares, unexplained irritability and other unusual behaviors. Or the child may prove “successful” in hiding the after-effects of the trauma.

Parents and child unwittingly collaborate to deny and avoid exploring the latent, unseen impact of the dog attack beyond the physical repair and healing of the flesh wounds. The parents conclude that if any residual effects exist, they are “insignificant”.

Every dog attack on a child is unique. Consideration must be given to the age and size of the child, the size of the dog, the location of the bite, plus the real and perceived severity of the wounds. Additionally consider, the arrival of help, as seen by the child, the quality of physical and emotional support provided by adults, (including physicians and nurses), and the emotional response of adults to the attack in the initial days post-attack, as observed by the bitten child.

Consider, for one example, a small dog biting the lower leg of an eleven year-old girl that required three sutures and healed without any recognized residual. An individual fitting this description became a professor in child & adolescent psychiatry and repeatedly saw little importance in this essay’s message.

In another example, a four year old boy is severely bitten in the face by a mastiff. Does anyone think this boy “got over it” after the facial scars healed?

A third example, a seven year-old boy, son of a gifted Chief of an Emergency Department in a hospital in So. California was bitten several times on his head by a neighbor’s dog. That attack caused profuse bleeding. Fortunately, the father was home, immediately took his son to his ED for repair. On the advice of the family attorney, the boy was evaluated a year after the attack to determine if there was any residual to be considered in a pending law suit. Both parents were stunned when they observed their son breakdown during that interview. The son revealed, while choking back tears, the post trauma load that he had carried, solo, for a year.

In conclusion, if your child suffers the misfortune of a dog attack, please, seriously consider the possibility that emotional issues may persist. If you have any doubts, it will be worth the time, money and energy to identify emotional residuals or experience the peace-of-mind that your child’s recovery is complete. 

R. Larry Schmitt was born in Iowa in l936. He graduated with eleven classmates from high school in Phelps, WI. He completed his undergraduate and medical degrees at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. An internship was completed at Philadelphia General Hospital. Following that internship, he worked as an Assistant Surgeon for the USPHS in Juneau, Alaska treating Alaska Natives. The next four years found him completing residencies in general and child psychiatry at the Menninger School of Psychiatry in Topeka, Kansas. He moved to San Diego in l969 where he practiced in La Jolla until retiring in 2005. During his practice, he taught and supervised in the Division of Child/Adolescent Psychiatry. He currently volunteers at the UCSD Free Clinic with continuing contact with residents in child and adolescent psychiatry.

He is boarded in both general and child psychiatry and a Life Fellow in the American Psychiatric Association.