Wednesday, January 23, 2008

No, You May Not Pet My Dog

Earlier this month, in the comments section to this post, I wrote:

"My favorite people are the ones with little tottering kids who think Jack Russells are like Toy Poodles or Maltese, and who act shocked when I say it's NOT okay for their barely walking kids to pet my dogs.

"Jack Russells are not good with very small children," I explain. "They have a habit of removing the front lip of children that squeal and jerk when they move."

And it's not a lie. A working Russell has to have brains and discretion, and most of the time it's all fine, but working terriers also have "the code that explodes" within them, and when that happens they are true terriers. Bottom line: they are not a dog for everyone.

"Is he he good with cats," I am asked. "Oh yes," I reply, "he loves them. What flavor is yours?" And no, that is NOT a joke.

Now comes the horrible news that a Jack Russell Terrier in Kentucky has killed a 6-week old baby that was left unattended in the middle of the bed with the dog in the same room.

A rare thing? Of course. That said, it is not a thing that defies the laws of nature, is it?

The folks who look at dog bite fatalities will tell you that Jack Russells do not normally bite people to death.

True enough, but only because of their relatively small size.

In fact, terriers bite folks quite a lot, and Jack Russells may be near the top of the biting list for the simple reason that they are fairly common, and have strong prey instincts.

Of course there will always be people who will tell you that their Collies have no drive to herd, their Pit Bulls have no drive to fight, their Cattle Dogs have no urge to nip, their Rottweilers have no urge to protect, and their Terriers have no secret urge to wreck carnage on pet store rodents and small birds.

Fine. Believe if you want. But do me a favor, eh? Keep an eye on the very small children. And don't leave the baby alone with the dog.

Yes, your kids are more likely to be killed by a swarm of bees than by a dog bite. That said, use common sense and be carefull.

A dog that bites does not violate any laws of nature. And, as uncomfortable as it may make some breed defenders, biting is very much in the nature of all dogs, and some breeds in particular. A Jack Russell is one of them.

I have said so in the past, and I say so again: Caveat emptor.


Anonymous said...

You are 100% right, NO DOG, of any breed, size etc. Should ever be left only with a child. Dogs will be dogs and as much as some may want to you can't change 1000's of years of nature. Every parent should remember when the baby cries and the dog is interested, the dog is not concerned why the baby is sad. The dog wants to help put anything in enough pain to make that sound out of it's misery.

Anonymous said...

I have to deal with the "parents hurt because I won't let their kids pet my dog" thing all the time -- since Pepper is only 35 pounds and has the cute Shiba Inu tail, every kids in the world wants to grab it and the parents think that because she's small, she must be friendly.

Luckily, Pepper is a rescue dog, so I just tell people that she's from rescue and is very shy. That way, everyone feels sorry for her (becuase they assume she had terrible experiences in her past and that's why she's "defective" in friendliness) and leaves her alone.

The truth is that she's probably 75% Border Collie (which means that she believes that small children are to be herded quickly into a small tight group without any intimacies or fuss from said small children) and 25% Shiba Inu (which means that she has absolutely no use for strangers) so she doesn't give a flying fig about them. But telling people that your dog couldn't care less about them (or is taking her time to make up her mind) tends to shock them, so we go with the "shy" thing and move on.

She's not agressive -- the trainer told us she's actively thinking about whether or not she likes someone, so none of us saw any reason to force her to before she wants to. Left to herself, she takes every day of six weeks to make up her mind whether or not she likes someone (which really takes people aback -- getting to six weeks of contact has taken a couple of years with some of my collegues), but once you're in, you're in -- conversely, there are a few people (mostly those who have been nasty to me or are actively mentally ill) that she had decided that she DOESN'T like and you can't change her mind at all once she's made that decision.

Drives me crazy how parents are so sure that cats are going to kill their children (the taking a baby's breath thing), but dogs should be considered nothing more than a live plush toy that anyone can toss around anytime.


Julie said...

My 3-year old grand-daughter and I met 2 leashed terriers and their owner on a beach. Ava, as she had been taught, stretched out her hand, palm upward, and reached out to let the dogs sniff her hand.

"Oh no," their owner said, "They really aren't used to children. Please don't touch them."

It was an excellent lesson for Ava, who has grown up with a Rottweiler, a Pit Bull, and a Boxer, that sometimes even cute, little dogs are to be respected.

Anonymous said...

I have a very well socialized Shiba who is a dog park regular. That said, I am always careful when children are around her. (Yes, the curly tail is irrestible to a a child.)

For more on this breed, children, and dogs in general, see "the Misanthropic Shiba" by Bravewolf. (Just do a search on the title.)

For those not familiar with Shibas, these are small hunting dogs from Japan. They hunt small game and boar. They have a pretty high prey drive and can be escape artists.

SmartDogs said...

An adult man accosted me in a city park this fall - demanding to HUG my dog. I told him the dog was friendly, but that *I'm* trained to kill.....

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 9:04

Thanks for the Shiba Inu info -- Pepper came from a local rescue, via a high-kill W VA shelter that labeled every black dog (her brother and sister were black) a "flat-coated retriever."

When I saw Pepper's picture on PetFinder, I knew immediately that she'd been mislabeled and was a Border Collie which, of course, was one of the herding dogs types my ag friends had told me to get. Although her sister was more stunning, we picked Pepper because she seemed more interested in people.

I knew the tail was a little "different" for a Border Collie and she was on the small side -- my vet took one look at her and said "She's definately a Border Collie, but I think she's got a Shiba Inu grandparent." This, of course, was five years ago and I'd never heard of the breed. (My vet's reponse was "Go to a Pet Store and check them out, but if you buy anyone there, I'll kill you!" -- the advantage of being a client for 20 years! ;-))

I'd done my research on Border Collies, but the other piece to her genetics was a surprise (folks around here also guessed Basenji or Skipperkke, but after research and seeing more dogs, everyone has agreed my vet was right on the Shiba Inu part.) so I appreciate good pointers so I can do the best for my dog.


Anonymous said...


Glad to help with the Shiba info.

I have also had a Border Collie. Older dog who was a rescue. He was raised with children, so they were not an issue. However, I occasionally had to be careful that he did not try to "herd" smaller dogs. Frequently found myself explaining this behavior to some small dog owners. The first time I saw the Border Collie "eye" stare and belly crawl/drop, I cracked up. He was going to "herd" some neighbor's very large golden lab hunting dogs! (He was also an escape artist who would take himself for a walk--if given the opportunity.)

I owned Dalmatians for over 30 years. Talk about children magnets- "Mom, there are Pongo and Perdy, can I pet them????" Well, Dalmatians are another breed that children should be introduced to carefully. They can be boisterous. They are also hunting and guard dogs. Their function with horses and carriages was to guard. I still am fond of Dals, but I will never approach a strange Dal without asking permission from the owner. Why? Because they were bred to guard.

dogshae said...

Hiya, i totaly agree about j.r,terriers as i own a 17 month old bitch.She's lovely but i have to warn people when they have heavy handed toddlers wanting to pat her that if hurt she will nip,after all she is a terrier not a soft mouthed labrador.I cringe when people say well we have a dog at home & the kids pull it about no problem, oh my good night, do i feel sorry for that dog.The first time it snaps it will pay the ultimate price with it's life.

Stacie said...

It's really funny coming across those who are not necessarily educated in the different personalities of dogs...I have two JRTs and a 80 pound Pitbull. Of course, all the kids first want to see the female JRT, she's tiny and cute at only about 10 pounds. I have to warn the children to be careful because she is shy and nervous and any quick movements may set her off. She loves respectable children, but hard handed or loud kids terrify her. They then move their children onto the male Jack who is about 16 pounds "just in case." This one LOOOVES kids. Probably a bit too much. He wants to jump on them, knock them over, roll around and lick them to death. I have to warn the parents, "he loves kids, but he may be a bit to wild, and knock unstable little ones over." Don't get me wrong, this doesn't happen as I am quite aware of my dogs "quirks" but if a handful of crazy out of control children ambush us (LOL) I can't guarantee anything. Lastly, they then choose to move on, say good day and be on their way without so much as a second thought at petting the pitbull. Funny thing..this is the MOST appropriate for kids. He's like an Eeyore. Moves slowly, nothing scares him, loves kids, will even let them ride him like a pony or poke him in the eyeball if they want. He is the perfect example of a calm, and very well balanced dog. The most of a reaction they'd get out of him, is a rather large, wet tongue up the side of their face. Point in the long seems more people than not think big dog = dangerous, small dog = safe. And although I would feel comfortable with any of my dogs around babies, it carrys the stipulation that I be present, and right there with them to be able to pick up on any potential issues before they become one, especially with the SMALLEST dog.