Charlotte Peltz Living with Your Dog "He Bit Me" brought to you by Joy Beckner Artist/ Bronze Sculptor

Living with Your Dog

He Bit Me

By Charlotte Peltz

Dog bites can range from a nip, just to see how it works out, to an attack that kills. Small children usually suffer the severest damage from dog bites since their faces are the most likely place for the bites to happen. And, children are even killed from dog attacks. But, whether a small child or an adult, it can be a very traumatic experience to be bitten -- or even severely threatened by a dog.

Should you be bitten by a dog, report it to the police, the Ecology Department and the SPA. If blood is drawn, go to the hospital on Reloj, and get a tetanus shot. Be prepared for possible infection to form in the days ahead. It is very important to locate the dog and determine if it has had a rabies vaccination. The department of ecology told me that dogs do not get "one free bite," but rather a dog that bites is subject to euthanasia first time around!!!!!!

Dogs bite for a variety of reasons, but quite probably the primary reason is that the dog has been under-socialized. If a dog is separated from its litter mates and mom before the proper age (no younger than seven weeks and preferably at least eight) the dog may well be impossible to socialize properly no matter what efforts an owner makes. Some dogs have a primary interest in only attacking other dogs and very often the attacks are directed at the very small dogs -- even puppies! A dog that attacks puppies is very, very sick indeed! But, there are certainly dogs whose primary interest is in biting people.

While the average street dog may be timid and reluctant to have a strange human touch it, the action it will most likely take is to run off -- not to bite. The biting from such a dog would result from the dog being prevented from fleeing. Sad to say the most likely dog to fear is one with a home, but suffering from poor temperament (an inherited trait,) separated from the litter too early, and/or not socialized throughout puppy-hood. Another type dog is the one whose owner says -- "Oh, he just nips now and then." Dogs who "nip" are simply practicing so that one-day they can do a really good job of it!

It is increasingly popular for people to have breeds with strong guarding instincts, and to think that such dogs offer protection. While the dog may well bite an intruder, the sad reality is that many innocent people get bitten instead. It does not take a genius to teach a dog to bite, but it takes understanding, training, proper attention and a lot of time to properly teach a dog priorities. And dogs with unstable temperaments can never -- EVER -- be trusted. As for the protection a dog provides a homeowner, it is primarily in its presence and because it makes noise. Anyone determined to get into a house is not going to be stopped by a dog, but the dog may well be stopped permanently by the intruder!

A woman told me a horror story about being bitten, and the owner suggested that her solution to prevent future bites would be to chain the dog during the day and allow the dog freedom in the yard at night. Chaining a dog is almost a guarantee to increase the aggression. In fact, just walking down the street with one's dog leashed and tightening that leash at the approach of some supposed threat (some unknown dog, for instance) is sure to cause the leashed dog to react with anything from excitement to full blown aggression. And trust me when I say that trying to teach handlers to walk with a loose leash is probably the most difficult problem I encounter in my training classes!

There is no easy protection against a crazed dog that leaps out of a doorway and attacks. It happens so fast that most people can do nothing to help themselves. However, if you are walking your dog in town or the countryside, I urge you to carry a very sturdy walking stick (no broom handles, please!) and to wear sturdy shoes. If you see a dog approaching, do not make eye contact. Learn about canine body posturing to be better prepared to "read" the dog's message. If aggression is being demonstrated, stop -- do not progress forward. Do not turn and run away. Often dogs are deterred by just stooping to pick up a stone -- often, but not always -- you may need to use that stick!

Be certain that your dog has been taught proper leash manners, that you know how to use a leash properly, and that your dog is not behaving in a manner that invites trouble. Should a fight take place, do not try to separate the dogs with your hands -- use that stick and those sturdy shoes you are wearing.

Report all dangerous dogs to the authorities and let's see if we cannot make the streets a safer place than they are at present.

Joy's note: The streets of San Miguel de Allende, GTO, Mexico, where Charlotte lives, are home to many dogs. Charlotte's advice to me was to buy a hefty, hardwood shovel handle, and carry it when walking my two dachshunds. Street dogs respect no broomstick!

We were unable to do that, because, when we arrived in San Miguel, we had not figured out the locks on our rental house and the unthinkable happened: Edgar escaped within the first ten minutes of our arrival! After Brian miraculously found him charging out of a sewer two miles away, and then miraculously found a vet who spoke a bit of English and would see our boy at 4:30 p.m. on New Year's Eve, Edgar spent the next seven weeks recuperating, while Lizzie looked on. Brian thinks the well-fed butcher shop dog (a block & a half from our place) saw Edgar, and thought, "Little Americano wienie -- yum!" Edgar was happy to be running after having spent five days riding behind the seat inside our truck. That dog took a 3" x 5" piece of skin from Edgar's inner thigh while he was trying to castrate him! Whew! He's lucky to be alive!!! And we are lucky to have found him and -- Dr. Hector Garcia Valenzuela.

Had I known about "Door Exercise," and trained Edgar on it, none of this would have happened! By the way, Edgar healed perfectly and the vet and penicillin bills were only totaled $60US dollars.

In U.S. suburban areas, we are fortunate to have leash laws, but if you travel with your dogs to Mexico, or any other country where dogs are often looked upon as a disposable commodities, the information in this article could come in handy. It is basic good sense.

Charlotte's note: "The reality, of course, is that dogs get killed all over the U.S. because they bolt from doors. A big difference here is that the street is most often just two feet from the door instead of a large lawn area away."

"One can measure the size and moral progress of a nation to how she treats her animals." Mahatma Gandhi.

Back to Charlotte Peltz List of Articles

Call Charlotte at 707-923-3477