Are All Dogs Capable of Killing a Human?

A reader submitted an article that summarized a veterinarian’s opinion on why human babies and children are attacked by dogs. He stated that no matter how well trained, dogs will resort to their natural instincts when
threatened, especially around babies that make sounds that entice their prey drive. He suggested that dogs will feel ‘jealousy’ towards the child since dogs obey a social hierarchy. He concluded that “every dog has the capability to be a dangerous wild animal.”

While I agree that no matter how many silly human tricks Fido can perform, it bears no weight on how he handles a perceived threat. There are many reasons why children are bitten by dogs. Prey drive and the suggestion that there’s a dangerous wild animal lurking within your Pomeranian do not make the list. In fact ~15,00 years of domestication eliminates the validity of the word ‘wild’ when referring to the family dog.
To say that a dog is threatened by the social position of the child in the pack is to say he feels the child threatens his resources: territory, food and right to progeny. Dogs do not have a rigid social structure that they obey like their very distant ancestor, the wolf. They do not have the same fight for survival and there is no evidence that dogs consider us part of their social structure. Dogs also do not consider us food, so a child’s cry does not waken the vicious carnivore within Mr. Fluffy.

So why do dog’s bite? Body language, resource guarding, anxiety or simply; plain ole’ bad handling. The bite is the dog’s last attempt to communicate the need for distance and is ALWAYS provoked. Children are bitten because they are naturally aggressive with their body language and are not taught how to respect dog’s boundaries. With 37-47% of all households in the US owning a dog, I shudder to think what percent took the time to study canine body language and behavior. A topic that is not even required in the curriculum of many veterinarians.

Simply because canines communicate differently and part of that communication is the bite, then I completely agree we should never leave them alone with our children. However, it’s time we take responsibility for these preventable tragedies and learn more about the family member at the foot of our beds – and stop blaming the big bad wolf.

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