Dear Abby off the mark on pet/child problem
Like millions of others, I read Dear Abby every day. Most of the time, I agree with the advice she doles out, but a few weeks ago, I thought she gave some pretty poor advice about a pet and child problem.
A woman wrote that her 2-year-old son, “Caleb” just met her new boyfriend “Mitch” who has a large dog, “Crusher.” The woman said that in the past, the dog “has shown aggression toward me, but it was nothing we couldn’t handle,” with no further explanation as to the dog’s actual behavior.
She went on to say the dog is now being “aggressive” toward Caleb, and on a couple of occasions, Crusher “charged” her son and left “scratches” on him.
I immediately thought, “Aggression? What aggression?” The dog’s behavior didn’t sound aggressive, but simply overly-exuberant and untrained, a dog who jumped in greeting and in play. Dogs do not “scratch” in aggression as a cat might. In fact, dogs don’t use their paws at all in fighting—they use their teeth. If the dog were truly aggressive, little Caleb probably would have required a trip to the emergency room.
The woman said she and Mitch now keep the dog and Caleb apart, but poor Caleb is getting the short end of the stick. Mitch set up a room for the boy with a TV and toys, and they close the door, leaving the little boy alone, while Crusher gets the run of the house. The woman says she hasn’t asked Mitch to “get rid” of the dog, but wonders if she has a right to ask. She doesn’t want him to feel he has to choose between her and the dog.
No, she has no right to ask him to get rid of the dog, because the dog is not the problem. The problem is the lack of dog training on Mitch’s part and the lack of understanding dog behavior on the woman’s part. She assumes “charging” is “aggression.” She never mentions staring, growling, biting or barking.
Abby’s advice to her was way off base. First, she said it was the mother’s duty to make sure her son was safe at all times. Correct. Shutting him in a room by himself wasn’t protecting him, but neglecting him. Right again. But then Abby said, “If you do not confront your boyfriend about his dangerous animal, you are choosing him and his dog over your son! When Caleb was attacked the first time, your boyfriend should have volunteered to confine his dog. The wrong critter is being confined.”
Whoa Abby! Wrong, wrong, wrong. First, she assumes the dog is “dangerous” just because the mother said he was “aggressive,” even though the dog’s actions didn’t indicate aggression, based on the mother’s own account. Abby then assumes the dog’s behavior was an “attack,” as if Cujo himself came to life.
Having worked with area shelters, I've heard from people who want to get rid of pets for similar reasons. As with most animal problems, the problem is not with the animal, but with the owners. Dogs should be taught not to jump on people. Kids should be taught not to mess with pets when they are eating and to not pull tails and ears. If kids are too young to understand, they’re too young for a pet.
My friend Amy had three big dogs before having her first baby, Emily. I asked her how she kept her dogs from knocking over the baby and she said, “My dogs learned before she came not to jump on people.” Amy also supervises her kids when they’re with the dogs and trains all of them how to behave. Unfortunately, as we’ve all seen in public, there are people who don’t bother to train their kids or their pets. Many take the easy way out and simply get rid of pets at the first sign of a problem. Worse yet, some get rid of pets the minute they find out a baby is on the way because “it’s too much handle.” Sorry, but I feel no sympathy for them. My sympathy lies with the pet being sent to an unknown future and possible euthanasia.
Before anyone gets a pet, they should ask themselves, “Can I commit to this animal for the rest of its life?” That means taking the pet when you move, finding a rental property that accepts pets and taking care of medical problems. If the answer is “no,” then they should forget it. Doing so will go a long way toward avoiding Dear Abby problems—and preventing animal problems from being dumped on the community.
Picture above is Emily, daughter of K9-Rescue(Amy)as she sits surrounded by her canine siblings Jake, Charlie and Nikki.
posted by Sandy at 7/23/2007 02:42:00 PM