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: