My Daughter Survived A Dog Attack. But, Could I Have Prevented It?

The following information contains critical information for everyone – whether or not they are dog owners. It’s especially valuable for families with young children.

 

QUESTION:

On June 17th my 8-year-old daughter was bitten on the face by our neighbor’s dog. This dog was very protective of his home and was kept outside with a shock collar and the boundary wire. Since my daughter was close friends with the girl that lives in that house, he would never growl at my daughter and would allow her to play and pet him. On the morning the attack happened, we all thought, “But he knew her! Why?” My daughter said she sat down to pet the dog and then out of nowhere he attacked her.

We’re very relieved that the dog did not take off chunks of skin with the bite. All of the skin was somehow still attached to my daughter’s face, and a surgeon successfully repaired the damage. But, there’s a part of me that thinks, “Would I have been able to prevent this if I had taught my daughter never to trust a dog that growls when people get near him? Would I have been able to prevent this if I had never allowed her to go to that house alone?”

Would you share your thoughts, Don? Warm thanks.

 

ANSWER:

I’m so sorry to hear about your daughter’s experience with the dog attack. That’s heartbreaking for everyone involved. The plain truth of the situation is that the dog always perceived itself as the authoritarian in the relationship and for some reason that tragic day, the dog decided to exercise/reinforce his position over your daughter.

Despite the shock collar and the boundary wire, the dog no doubt perceived itself as the leader of his entre “home pack.” He had never been trained to respect human leadership, so he felt empowered to do as he wished. Physical restraints like leashes, shock collars, and boundary wires do nothing to transform a dog’s nature away from dominance and toward compliance. Only effective training (my Nature-Based Discipline, Praise & Play Method) can do this.

There are so many signs of dominance that can go unnoticed by a dog’s owners and by others, especially children. That’s why I never allow my children to interact with an untrained dog when I’m not there to closely supervise. And, if I do allow my children to spend time with an untrained dog that seems to be friendly, I still guard my kids with an eagle eye and remove them at the first inkling that the dog could exercise dominance. Sometimes you don’t know what a dog’s personality is truly like until you start interacting with it. That’s why you should never get comfortable and fully trust any dog – unless it’s your own dog that you have properly trained to the “Trust Zone” level that I talk about in my Perfect Dog system.

Yes, you can train kids to look out for signs of aggression (which can be quite subtle). In fact, it’s something I encourage all people to do with their children. However, it’s not something I would fully rely upon given that kids can get easily distracted. Plus, their emotions (i.e. wanting to pet the dog) can override their logic.

Don’t beat yourself up over this situation. I praise God that your daughter wasn’t more badly injured, or even killed. I would, however, have a serious talk with the dog’s owners seeing that the dog is a ticking time bomb for themselves and for anyone else who the dog comes into contact with – whether inside or outside their home.

With your permission, I’d like to be able to post about this situation. I will certainly leave your name out of it, but the information could be extremely helpful for many others. It could save lives! Please let me know if that’s okay with you. I hope I’ve been of some help to you.

– Don Sullivan, “The DogFather”

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