Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Results of the Doggone Safe Childhood Dog Bite Survey

Doggone Safe conducted a web survey to get information from adults about childhood dog bites. The primary reason for this was to find out whether child dog bite victims report lasting emotional effects from this childhood trauma.

There were 1,693 responses to the survey. Approximately 55% report having been bitten by a dog as a child. This is consistent with the oft-quoted statistic that half of all children are bitten by a dog.

Approximately 10% of adults who were bitten by a dog as a child report that they have never recovered from the emotional effects of the bite.

We will  publish an analysis and discussion of these data in a future article. For now, here are the results from some of the questions.

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Birthday Present from Family Paws!

It's fall and that means it is Jennifer's (from Family Paws and Doggone Safe) Birthday! To celebrate Jen is offering the Dogs & Storks DVD for $10 plus shipping!  If you are a rescue group or need 10 or more DVD’s please email Jen at info@dogsandstorks.com for pricing!  There is nothing more important to Jen than offering positive and practical and affordable education and support for new and expectant families! Please take advantage of this offer through Oct 31st, 2013.

About the Dogs and Storks DVD

Get the answers and solutions you need to help decrease stress and increase your confidence and comfort once baby arrives.

Dogs&Storks™ is the trusted program for new and expecting families with dogs. Our Educational DVDs have supported families since 2002! Mother of four, certified dog behavior consultant, Jennifer Shryock offers practical tips and clearly explains how and why preparing before baby arrives helps everyone towards a smoother transition.

  • Will our dog be jealous?
  • Should we carry a doll?
  • Does bringing a blanket home help?
  • Tips for first introductions.
  • What activities can we do to prepare?

Purchase the DVD for $10 plus shipping until Oct 31, 2013

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Supporting the Child Dog Bite Victim

This article is a summary of the article “Supporting the Child Dog Bite Victim” by Michelle R. King, M.D. Click here to read the complete article.

"Dog bites are the second most costly public health problem in the United States with half of all Americans being bitten in their lifetime". - Hoff GL, Cai J, Kendrick R, Archer R. 2005. Emergency department visits and hospitalizations resulting from dog bites, Kansas City, MO, 1998-2002. Mo Med 102(6):565-8

You Are Not Alone!

According to the Centers of Disease Control roughly 889,000 children require medical attention for dog bites per year. Of those, 31,000 require reconstructive surgery. A dog attack is a form of violence and is traumatic for a child, as is any type of violence. Such violence to a child can and does result in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or other anxiety or mood disorders. If you are a parent of a child with lingering emotional effects as a result of a dog bite you are not alone, although you may feel isolated. One source of support you may wish to explore is the Dog Bite Victim Support Group, hosted by Doggone Safe. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/doggonesafe/

Dog bite Laws and support are in their infancy with the children survivors being, as in the sexual abuse survivors of more than a decade ago, those who are now isolated despite the prevalence.

Mental Health Care for Your Child

A child attacked by a dog has experienced a traumatic loss of control of their body and may require mental health assistance in order to recover emotionally. Keeping in mind the age and maturity of the child, a parent should discuss the available options for help and allow the child to have a say or even make the decision about accessing mental health care. It is important for the child to be made aware that help is available, even at a later time down the road.

Ideally mental health care would begin as soon as possible after the traumatic experience. In many cases, law suits, insurance claim settlements or other factors prevent therapy from starting when it is most required.

Treatment options should include both psychiatric, meaning an M.D., who is a physician, Board Certified in Psychiatric Medicine as well as a therapist. A therapist includes a psychologist which is a PhD in psychology, or a social worker which is usually an MSW or LCSW, among others. The treating provider, if possible, should not only be specialized in the care of children, yet also have experience with treating traumatized individuals.

How to Determine if Your Child Needs Help

Children, particularly over the age of 9, are usually resilient and while they don’t forget the incident they will recover emotionally within weeks to a few months. It is beneficial to keep in mind that the child has suffered not only a tremendous personal event, yet also a loss of control at a young age when coping with such adult issues is simply not in their emotional repertoire.

Signs that indicate the child is not coping:
·         Intense fear of dogs (or other fears not present before the attack)
·         Sadness
·         Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
·         Failing to attend to personal hygiene
·         Change in interactions with peers (isolation from or aggression towards)
·         Decline in school work
·         Obstinate conduct toward caregiver, teacher or peers
·         Aggression, anger or irritability
·         Social withdrawal
·         Child is emotionally distant (appears not to feel joy or sadness)
·         Child seems cold, detached, robotic in their interactions

The latter three are associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and professional help is required immediately.

Keep Parental Stress Private from the Child

A parent may have very real and significant feelings about the trauma, which may involve guilt, anger, frustration, fear, worry, and can include PTSD as well as other mental health issues as a result of their own trauma. These need to be dealt with privately with the parent’s own mental health provider and not be an additional burden to the child.

Talk to the Child

Parents can support the child in the immediate aftermath by talking and listening to their child without judgment or opinion and without being overly concerned about the future or complicating the child’s concerns with the parents’ own feelings. Discussing initially with the child, in a compassionate yet problem solving manner their current issues such as social problems, where their scars are concerned, without deliberating the future of surgeries or wearing makeup if it is a younger child, can be a way to remain problem-focused. Should the child survivor have difficulties with problem-solving during this acute or immediate phase after the trauma, despite the caregiver’s efforts, it may be important to revisit the option to seek mental health guidance, so that the child may still be able to maintain their own independence in control-related matters. 

Give Child Control in Decisions Affecting their Body

When possible and when the decision does not interfere with the child's physical wellbeing, giving them back some of that control can be quite valuable. For example, if at some point scar revision as a result of the attack becomes an issue, the child should have a voice in the matter. Oftentimes children receive reconstructive operations, without their voices being heard, due to the physician’s discretion primarily. Another influence in the decision to undergo scar revision arises from parental distress about their child's scars or deformity, a reminder to the caretaker yet not necessarily to the child, of the traumatic experience. A reasonable manner to approach the topic, depending upon the age and the individual child, would be to simply in an age-appropriate manner, ask if the revisions are within their wishes at the present time and how they feel about their scars. It is a very personal issue and providing them with some control again can be for many children, of vital importance regardless of their age.

Reestablish Normal Routines

Once it is medically reasonable, reestablishing usual household routines can be of benefit for the survivor and also the caretaker. Disruption of school, playtime and vacations may exacerbate and even draw further pathologic attention to disturbing issues that are of concern to the child and family as well.

Talk About the Fate of the Family Dog

In some cases (in fact most dog bites are by the family dog or a dog known to the child), the family will have to decide the fate of the dog that bit. The decision should be made with the child's opinion taken into consideration. The strength of their ballot so to speak, as with any loss, being more so depending upon their age and maturity level, rather than their physical injury level or immediate, emotional components. A reasonable rule of thumb is to seek professional guidance on this issue, if it arises, as such a decision warrants perhaps, outside objective thoughts beyond that of the authority figures who may be acting to some degree, out of, understandably their own anxiety. In addition, seeking some professional mediation may dampen any potential ill feelings within the family dynamics during a time when cohesion is of far more import. 

Caregiver/Parental Concerns

Parents are affected by their children's exposure to traumatic events and their own responses and behaviors may often adversely affect the child. If a parent begins to feel sad, anxious, or begins to experience any behavioral changes themselves, these changes, would quite likely affect the child as well. Taking care of oneself is essential to taking care of one's child during such a difficult time. 

If the parent suffers from a pre-existing condition, depression or anxiety disorder, in particular PTSD, then seeking a mental health care provider is essential for the caregiver immediately after the attack. Generally it is the caregiver more so than the child survivor at some point who understandably, requires psychiatric and oftentimes psychological assistance, given the burdens and suffering of the uniqueness of the parental trauma after their child has been bitten.

About Dr. King

Michelle R. King, M.D. is a recently, retired physician, who was nearly mauled to death as an eleven-year old child, with subsequent, multiple reconstructive operations. She went on to undergraduate, graduate and medical schools, then residencies in Family Medicine, Neurology and Psychiatry. More recently, over the last two decades, she worked primarily with PTSD patients, predominantly with combat veterans from the Vietnam and Korean Wars. In her private office Dr. King has worked with both traumatized Veterans as well as distressed civilians as a result of dog bites and attacks, as well as those who are survivors of the violent, modern world. Dr. King continues to this day rescuing homeless and abused dogs.

Additional Resources

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Family Gatherings - Train the Dog in Advance

Coming up we have Canadian Thanksgiving, followed by Halloween, then US Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Eve. All these provide opportunities for family gathering and parties. These events are great fun for the people, but can be very stressful for dogs. Here are some tips to help keep both kids and dogs safe and happy during family gatherings

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.

Download our handout with a summary of tips for parents and dog owners


Visit our article library for some articles about keeping kids and dogs safe during the holidays. Scroll through the list looking for those articles marked with a candy cane. Download the Doggone Safe Holiday Press Release with more tips


Doggone Safe Members: Download the Doggone Safe Holiday Press Release that you can edit to send to local newspaper, radio and TV media to promote your business and disseminate our safety messages. Join Doggone Safe.