“You kids go on ahead,” I said.
I was no more than 50 steps behind my three children and a few of their friends as they crossed the street to our neighborhood park.
I was 50 steps too late.
Out of my sight, a few seconds later, my child’s friend was bitten by a dog.
Out of respect for the child’s family, the dog’s family, and those who may have seen the bite happen, I won’t go into detail surrounding the incident. I’m not even sure we know what exactly happened. You see, that’s the thing with dog bites: They can happen fast. They can happen when and where we least expect it—such as a busy neighborhood park with a mom standing right across the street.
During summer months, most of us hang out at pools, parks, camp sites, and many other outdoor spaces with our children. We are pretty likely to come into close contact with a dog. When we see one, what do our kids want to do? Yep, pet the dog. I do too! However, as animal behavioral specialist Destiny Valladares tells me, not every dog wants to be greeted.
Take her dog, Lucy, for example. In this video clip, Destiny shows us how Lucy is what she calls a fear aggressive dog.
Destiny also told me to think of a dog’s personal space much like our human space. If you’re sitting in a car with a window slightly down, for example, would you want a stranger to come up to you and reach into your personal space?
Yeah, it’s kinda like that with dogs too, says Destiny. She shared with me five mistakes we commonly make when approaching a dog, from Dr. Sophia Yin, DVM, MS.
Five Common Mistakes We Make Around Dogs
1. Rushing up to the dog.
2. Interacting with unfamiliar dogs, especially if they are tied up.
3. Hugging, kissing, and petting the dog roughly. Most dogs dislike this.
4. Approaching the dog head-on. (Watch the video demonstration below.)
5. Reaching a hand out for the dog to sniff.
Number five! What?!
I am guilty of teaching my own children to approach a dog by reaching out their arm or hand for him/her to sniff!
Knowing this, I reached out to Destiny to help demonstrate the right and wrong ways to approach or greet a dog.
In the end, my child’s friend was lucky.
So was the dog, I think.
The dog was required by the City of San Antonio Animal Code regulating animal bites to be quarantined for rabies observation for 10 days from the day of the bite. For legal information on Texas’ One Bite Rule, click here.
The wound from the dog’s bite did not require stitches. There is, however, a scar.
A physical mark, yes. And likely, something much deeper. Something that we can’t necessarily see.