A few Sundays back, during the 2nd half of training, I was practising out of sight stays with Harry, my 6 ½ year old, black Labrador. I put him in the down position, on the brick paving, under the large tree, between Class 4 and Puppy Classes. I told Harry to stay and walked around behind the tree to wait 5 minutes before returning to him.
I peeped now and again to ensure that Harry had not moved. With only 30 seconds to go, I noticed that he had rolled over, into what’s called a “dead dog” position, a failure in the ring. I bristled and was returning to put Harry back into the right position when I saw a young girl on her knees beside him, stroking his raised front paw!
The young girl informed me that Harry liked “secrets”. I had no idea what she meant, until she leant down, lifted the flap of his ear and whispered to him. My lovable, well trained and very familiar with the antics of a toddler dog lay there and looked up at me as if to say, “How much longer do I have to put up with this?”
I read somewhere that children who are bitten by dogs are often nipped in the face. The reason given was that the child gets his or her face too close to the dog’s. The dog either feels either:
a) Threatened because the child is staring at it at close quarters - an aggressive act in dog body language, or
b) Distinctly uncomfortable because the child is blowing in its ear.
Unfortunately, for some dogs, the only response to such “provocation” is to bite.
I have spent a lot of time conditioning Harry to being around children. I have ridden him like a horse, laid on him, pulled his hair, pulled his tail, put my hand in his mouth, taken his food away etc etc. And I have blown in his ear! Harry is as “kid safe” as any dog I have ever met. Yet he is a dog and can be spooked.
It is good, safe practise to check with the owner before letting your child approach, pat or whisper to a dog.
Robert Fairhead, Instructor, October 2005