HOW many children do you know of who have been bitten by a dog while their parents and/or the dog's owners are chatting within a few yards of the incident?
I have personally heard of quite a few and I think this is where many dog owners (and parents) are becoming completely unrealistic in their expectations where dogs and children are concerned. They become completely "turned off" from their dog or child - so engrossed in their chatting that they notice nothing until it is too late.
There is also a second scenario here that I am sure also happens. A dog owner sees the dog getting irritated but doesn't want to hurt the feelings of his or her best friends by telling their child to please stop trying to "ride the rottweiler" or please stop stomping on the doberman's tail!
Situations like these are explosive to say the least, but it has to be the dog's owner who takes the initiative. If you lose your best friends for asking their child to keep away from your dog, then they were not quality friends to begin with.
So what does a responsible dog owner do?
A responsible owner should not let such situations develop. Never leave children and dogs to amuse themselves together while you chat to the child's parents. It is most likely that if the dog is being teased, annoyed or even hurt and gives several warning snaps or growls you will be too engrossed in your chatting to notice, as will the parents!
If the inevitable happens it is not the dog's fault - it may have given many warnings and tried to move away but the child followed it. It perhaps even snapped the air beside the child a couple of times but nobody noticed - neither did it frighten off the offending child. The parents and the dog's owner may both be returned to reality with the screams of a bitten child, followed by the undeserved destruction of the dog.
It is clearly the dog owner's fault for allowing the dog to be put in such a situation. As the dog's owner you must take the dog out of that situation of danger and locate it in a safe area where the child can not gain access to it. You must do this before you become preoccupied with chatting or making coffee.
And parents are not blameless either. Many are quite happy to leave children playing with a dog (it relieves them of taking control of their child's behaviour), even when they know nothing about dog behaviour, do not own a dog, and have no idea what a dog's reaction is to teasing. They will react to an owner removing the dog in the same way they would act if a toy had been taken off their child. When you explain that you are trying to prevent their child being bitten they will express concern that you keep a "dangerous dog" in your family.
As a responsible dog owner you may perhaps try to educate such people by explaining that all dogs will bite if they are annoyed long enough or hurt. Dogs are feeling, reasoning creatures, not toys - we would not expect another child to just sit and let itself be hurt, teased, stood on, have its hair pulled and do nothing about it. So why are many of us stupid enough to expect such tolerance from dogs? Such a dog does not exist!
What should responsible parents do?
If you know you are going to be preoccupied with chatting or even with business talk and your child is accompanying you, ask the dog's owner to take the dog to a safe place as you feel your child is not old enough to know how to play safely with a dog. If the owner brushes your concerns aside saying the dog is safe and loves children, please be affirmative and repeat that you would be able to relax only if the dog was removed from the child's access area. Most dog owners would then remove the dog to another area and realise you felt strongly about the safety of your child. But the rule applies here as before - if the dog owner allows your insistence on safety to come between your friendship, then that friendship was never worth retaining.
To both owners and parents - be firm, and act before such incidents happen. If you are likely to become preoccupied in conversation do not relax until the safety of your dog and your child are assured. They must not have access to each other unless your concentration is on them both for every moment they are together. - Elezabeth