Separate or Supervise

Adding a human baby into the mix doesn't need to upset the apple cart. Growing up my with dogs and cats and birds made me compassionate, passionate about animals and I wouldn't have had it any other way. I was however bitten by a dog known to me, in a friends back yard under the age of 10. While this may surprise some, to those familiar with statistics it is quite common. I still have the scar to remind me and my family. It doesn't matter what breed of dog it was that bit me, what matters is that we can prevent future bites through education, mindfulness and awareness.

Many people will know that I go into primary schools to teach children how to be safe around dogs and how to look after their pets responsibly. Some of these little souls have never touched an animal and you can see them gain confidence because they are well prepared with information about how to be safe.

Dog bites occur world wide and I genuinely believe in the mantra Separate or Supervise. All dogs have teeth in their mouth, and cats have a bonus of claws. Even the most placid animal can sometimes have a bad day, or be pushed to far.

There is a disproportionate number of bites in children under 10yrs old- this means that there are more than we would expect to be occurring compared to age groups. Most of these bites will be by a dog known to the child.

A savvy dog owner can spot early warning signs that dogs give when they are feeling overwhelmed and stressed and be able to step in to ensure no one gets hurt. There are two problems with this

1- Not everyone is able to detect subtle body language indicating that the dog is stressed

2- No one has eyes in the back of their head (yet) And if you are not watching you do not know what is going on.

I will also stress that watching from a meter a way is NOT supervision. Supervision is only supervision if you are actively aware of the situation and in the case if something does happen you can instantly react. This means you need to be involved in all interactions and in a position to separate in less than a second if your child or your pet is not finding the experience pleasant.

Separation is only separation if it is appropriate and actually used! Don't use a 60cm high baby gate if your dog can jump 1 meter. Or a door if it is not securely latched and locked.I highly recommend fly-screen doors that allow noise and smell to pass through but no tiny creatures of the human or fluffy (furry, scaly or fathered) variety through regardless of their ninja abilities.

Start off before the baby is even born. Set in ground rules such as no animals in the nursery, mat time and crate training. This will allow your pet to adjust without the added stress of a new noisy creature invading their territory. It also means that all of this is routine and by the time bub arrives so is one less hurdle for you to cross while sleep deprived.

My dogs are friendly and have a high tolerance from children. But they are not robots and are not bomb proof so I am NEVER going to test just how high their tolerance is, I do not ever want to to know their breaking point. If I do ever find that out then I will have made  a major error. I am responsible for not putting my dogs in stressful situations or expecting them to be furry humans instead of the amazing companions that they are.

Don't let your child, niece, nephew or grand child gain a scar that will remind you every day of how quickly the most amazing relationship can turn sour.

Dr Jaime Jackson