Recently our practice had to sew up two large dogs, which got in an altercation over food. These were both good family dogs who had lived together peacefully for several years. How was this possible?
A few boys between the ages of seven and nine years were in the yard playing and threw one of their pop tarts between the dogs. While diving for the treat the dogs began fighting over the food. The family pets ended up with multiple deep lacerations and badly scared the mother.
The children had not been educated about the behavior over “treat” type foods and they could have been seriously injured if they had tried to separate the pets.
The animals are physically healing, but their emotional relationship has been altered and owners are working on trust issues. The boys have learned an important lesson about dogs and food which may prevent them from dogs’ bites in the future. Our practice firmly believes that no child under the age of twelve should be left alone in a yard with a large dog. Factors such as hot weather, lack of fresh water, “older dog sleeping” situations, and many others can effect how the dog reacts.
Many of these situations can be easily avoided. We had to euthanize a fourteen year old dog that was asleep in the back yard when a three year old child fell on the dog. The dog awoke reacting to a perceived attack and the child incurred injuries to her head requiring three hundred sutures. It could have been much worse. It was the grandmother’s dog and yard and grandma never forgave herself.
The old saying “let sleeping dog lie” has basis in fact because animals are in a more primitive state asleep and can awaken reacting like their wild relatives.
Our advice is to love and care for your family pet but educate your children that they still are a little wild.
Nancy Johnson, DVM