12.14.2011

Around The Internetz: Pit Bulls and Babies

I used Offbeat Bride almost exclusively when planning our wedding. Now that I'm an old married lady, I'm using a lot more of the Offbeat Empire, including Offbeat Home. It's Martha Stewart for crafty, artistic, outside the box types who aren't into Martha Stewart.

I frequently type in "Dogs" into the Empires search engine because they have great ideas for pets. Typing in "Dogs" this week, I got one post that really got my attention, and I have to share it here. It's written from a woman who has 2 Pit Bulls and a baby.


I'm not here to say my dogs are just like puggles or cockapoos. They are clearly not. Having them in our family means that there isn't any unsupervised play between the dogs and our son. There are also regular lessons on animal/baby kindness for all involved. But these things happen not because it's in my dogs' nature to attack. (Pit bulls were long called nanny dogs because of how great they are with children!) The supervision and the boundaries I set happen simply because we aim to be responsible parents and dog owners.

Well said, Julie. Well said.

The thing I love about this is that she doesn't say "it's easy having a Pit and a youngster". She admits that her dogs are big, tough, and that they need a lot of the magic word: MANAGEMENT. She also states that her baby is not allowed to play unsupervised with either dog, and that the thing that bothers her more than people judging her for a home birth and her stance on vaccines is that people don't think big dogs and babies can co-exist. 

I've written about Baby/Dog Introductions in the past, as well as my stance on why Pit Bulls (and other "tough" breeds) in two other posts: Pitbull Soapbox, where I outline my stance on Pits and Breed Bans; and about Breed Bans in Maine after a Waterville Police Chief wanted to Ban Pits because of frequent attacks -----one of which was when a child was "playing rough" with a Pit Bull, 3 weeks after that dog attacked another child in the home (why the parents let the kids play with the dog with a known bite history is beyond me....)

Julie has it right. They need to have rules in their home, management, and practice safe multi-species household common sense. Too bad more people aren't like Julie, because dogs will continue to get re-homed/put down because management, training, lots of baby gates (for the dog as well as baby), aerobic exercise needs - and in the case of the Pit Bull - common sense, aren't there.
 
Just to illustrate, this isn't just Pits. I talked to a sweet man with a Corgi who bit his toddler in the head. Before you jump to the conclusion that this is a herding dog, and maybe it was a mean/viscous animal, here's what happened:

 -Dog was asleep under a table at Thanksgiving.
 -Dad watches baby crawl under table, where the dog went to get relief from the baby.
 -16 month old kid crawls under table, pulls on dogs face.
 -Dog wakes up, startled and bites at whatever is around.....the top of the kids head.

Let me put it this way: If someone did that to me, I'd bite too. The options are to re-home the dog, or euthanasia. The dog is 7 years old, now unfairly marked for like with a "bite" history - you tell me the likelihood that this dog will get re-homed to someone outside the family. It's going to be much harder, and you have to have a connection of some sort to help this dog get into the right home, if one is available. Rescue groups won't take a dog with a history of bites - even if the circumstances are in the dogs favor (as listed above).

That story won't be on the 6 o'clock news. The family is heartbroken because they want to do what's best for the dog, but they can't keep the dog in the home. The options are rather limited.


This, sadly, happens all the time.

The keys are management, training, and knowing the limitations of the family dynamic. Not all dogs will be ok with kids, and if that's your dog, find a new home before baby comes, before the dog is stressed enough to bite. Otherwise, the onus is on the owner, no matter how big, or small, the dog is.

What if my dog is growling, or stressed out?

It's scary when your lovable house pet starts to show signs of stress - like growling - at your newly mobile toddler. If you are having this problem, the key is to get help before a bite occurs. In our area, I recommend working with Dr. Kati Wrubel at Mass Vet Referral Hospital, or Dr. Sheila D'Arpino at the Animal Rescue League. If you can't get in touch with them, find a qualified, certified instructor to come into your home and help you out.