It is a sad fact that children under five are the demographic group most likely to be on the receiving end of a dog bite. Perhaps even sadder – and certainly more frustrating – is that such attacks are often caused by a family member’s pet rather than a strange dog. But how can such incidents be prevented? How can parents spot the warning signs and teach their offspring the correct manner in which to behave around dogs? The brand new title from ethical animal publishers Hubble & Hattie, Babies, Kids and Dogs, attempts to address these concerns and offers practical advice regarding dog behaviour and training with an emphasis on ensuring that the family pet remains exactly that – an animal to be respected, loved and enjoyed by all members of the family, young and old.
Authors Melissa Fallon and Vickie Davenport both have degrees in animal behaviour and a wealth of experience in dog training, alongside being parents themselves. With a foreword from Steve Mann, the founder of the Institute of Modern Dog Trainers (IMDT), the book immediately promises to be a useful tool for all dog owners, with or without young children. In less than 100 pages, the authors manage to cram in a heap of information, including everything from the potential causes of dog bites and how to spot stress signals, to a breakdown of training exercises to work on prior to the arrival of a baby.
The layout of the book is arranged so that the majority of text is broken up by a variety of full colour photographs, making for easy reading. In the case of the explanation of training exercises, the images complement the text nicely by offering an insight into how the tasks should be performed. Subheadings, such as ‘Potential problem behaviours/scenarios’ and ‘Respecting your dog’s food/resources’, are organised into five chapters – Assessing your dog, Preparation, Introducing the new family member, Toddler training and Raising children around dogs. One small criticism is that the first chapter contains quite a wide scope of information which deviates from its description of ‘Assessing your dog’ – perhaps the majority of this chapter would have been better suited to an extension of the introduction – and the page which details how to manage a reactive dog on the lead would have been better suited to the ‘Building confidence’ section instead. Despite this, the assessment chart itself offers an excellent starting point for identifying any areas which may trigger behavioural problems by incorporating a traffic light system to mark how well the dog appears to cope with stimuli, such as the presence of children and baby-related items. Tasks such as on-lead walking and the ability to give up toys are also included in the chart, which is further organised into ‘The Six Essentials’:
- Build confidence
- Walks/ exercise
- Flexible routine/energy
- Avoiding temper tantrums
- To chew or not to chew
- Establish boundaries
An interesting part of the book is the inclusion of ‘Charlie and Champ’ illustrations by artist Natasha Thompson, designed to encourage discussion about safe dog interaction with your child (see example ‘How do we know Champ is unhappy?’ below). Most notably is the image of ‘Charlie’ hugging the dog – the so-called cute photographs widely seen across the internet of toddlers climbing on uncomfortable dogs recreated in cartoon form. While preventing children from teasing the family pet or pulling their tail is (hopefully) obvious, unfortunately many dog owners are oblivious when it comes to recognising the signs of stress or attempts at avoidance behaviour, making the more subtle body language that ‘Champ’ demonstrates a vital lesson for parents too.
Overall, Babies, Kids and Dogs offers an excellent insight into dog behaviour in relation to life with children. Its accessible format, with a successful balance between theory and practical training advice, makes the book a valuable resource which should be on the bookshelves of all parents and dog owners. It would not be unrealistic to say that this publication has the capability to educate the public and therefore have an impact on the reduction of instances of dog bites on children.
‘Babies, Kids and Dogs’ (Hubble & Hattie, September 2016) can be purchased directly from the publishers here.
I recently wrote a piece for anti Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) campaign group Born Innocent about the flawed Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 which can be viewed here.
A book containing the innermost thoughts of a poo-rolling, Kindle-eating, fish-hiding, seafaring rescue Lurcher may not exactly be at the top of your ‘must read’ list. But it should be.
Worzel, or ‘Worzel Wooface’ to give him his full title, was adopted from Hounds First Sighthound Rescue by author Catherine Pickles. After starting a Facebook page to provide updates on his progress, Catherine soon found that Worzel – and his unique ‘voice’ – was a hit, and ‘The Quite Very Actual Adventures of Worzel Wooface’ was born: the book Catherine says she never meant to write, about the dog she never meant to have.
The book is 140 pages long and is presented in a diary-entry style, starting from the day that Worzel first arrived. Worzel’s hilarious narrative, often echoing the exasperated expressions from the ‘hoomans’ around him, consists entirely of his own take on English (“I is covered in mud and fox poo, HAND cow poo, and I is being quite actual cross with hanyone who finks they is going to change this state of affairs”). Far from causing difficulties in ‘actual understandings’ of the book, this somewhat peculiar writing style provides many of the laugh out loud moments – such as Worzel referring to ‘being tense’ as “tents” and my personal favourite “in The Nile” for ‘in denial’. He also thinks that the computer is named “Uff”, from the noise Worzel’s ‘dad’ makes when he sits down to play computer games and says “Uff, I’m knackered”.
There is a variety of other canine pals featured in the book, including foster dog Pandora, a Wolfhound cross Bullmastiff who is so huge even at four months old that she earned the nickname ‘Pandora the Fridge’. The fiery personalities of the family cats ensure that there is never a dull moment for Worzel, or indeed for Worzel’s mum who sometimes has to deal with “Distressed Mouses in Hawkward Circumstances” and a certain incident involving a dead squirrel and the kettle. But Worzel is undoubtedly the star of the show. The various vet trips which he has to endure are both amusing and painfully familiar for anyone who has ever had to struggle with an anxious dog on the examination table. When given some ear drops, he comments that “Sally-the-Vet did give the rest of the bottle to Mum, so I fink Mum must have gunk in her ears as well”. Worzel’s antics at home are just as hysterical, from leaving his rather too realistic-looking toy rat in the bathroom to burying half-eaten pieces of mackerel in his bed.
Yet hidden amongst all the giggles is the serious side of the story. Worzel is a rescue dog and is not without issues, taking 11 months to be able to play with Catherine, and refusing to engage in ‘normal’ dog behaviour such as eating food that has been dropped on the floor – something which the family think he was punished for doing in the past. In this sense, the book is a tribute to other rescue animals who may have not necessarily had the best start in life, but are now living life to the full thanks to the patience and efforts of their new families.
I for one think that Worzel truly is a “luffly boykin”, and can’t wait to read his next book.
‘The Quite Very Actual Adventures of Worzel Wooface’ (Hubble & Hattie, March 2016) can be purchased here.
You can follow his latest adventures at Worzel’s Facebook page or on Twitter @Worzel_Wooface