Thursday, May 21, 2015

Dear Parents in my Neighborhood

It's Dog Bite Prevention Week, so it seems like a good time for a chat. Especially since your kids and my dog will be sharing the sidewalks more frequently now that summer is right around the corner.

First, let me say, I'm not trying to tell you how to raise your children. I'm not a parent and I trust that you've got more expertise on child rearing than I do.

But I could use your help in raising my dog. You know the one. The one that has the fluffy, curled tail that looks like it's begging to be grabbed.


The one who prances down the sidewalks with a huge smile on her face.


What you might not know about her, though, is that she's unsure of kids. They move quickly, sometimes they move in bizarre ways, they make strange noises. These are all things that make her nervous.

You might have noticed that we cross the street if your kids are playing on the sidewalk or riding scooters up and down your driveway. You might also have noticed that when my dog sees your children doing these things, she ducks behind me, her tail goes down, and her ears look non-existent. We don't mind sharing the sidewalks with your budding artists--I love seeing their sidewalk chalk art when they've finished it. And I'm thrilled that they're outside getting fresh air and exercise--I wish I had the balance that they've developed on those scooters! But we need a little space, so please encourage your children not to chase us across the street when we make an attempt to get that space.

The only thing worse than having a kid reach for your tail is having a cat reach for it.

You might have noticed that we abruptly change directions if your children are screaming (even if it's all in good fun). You might also have noticed that when we change directions, my dog continues to look over her shoulder at your children until I stick a treat in front of her nose and refocus her attention. My dog's default setting is excited. When she sees things moving quickly and hears them making interesting noises, her excitement levels skyrocket and she's ready to party. But she doesn't know how to party with kids. To my dog, a party means chasing and herding things, which involves nipping at things and giving playful growls, and those things make kids nervous and when they get nervous, my dog gets nervous. A nervous dog is not a safe dog, so we will always change directions and, again, we greatly appreciate not being chased.  

I really love that so many of you have taught your children to ask before reaching out to pet a dog. I hope you also tell them that sometimes people say no and that really does mean no. I don't say no to break your children's hearts. It breaks my heart to see their faces fall when I say no. If there are other dogs that we can see or hear, if there's a large group of children rushing up as your child asks, if is a train or other loud vehicle going by, if your child is smaller than my dog, I will always say no. I say no because I have to. I say no because that's the best way to ensure your children and my dog stay safe.

Even if I say yes, there will be rules. My dog has to sit before your child can pet her. Your child will have to pet her back or neck and not put their face in her face. If there's more than one child, they will have to take turns and pet her one at a time. All bikes, scooters, and skateboards must be set down before they approach her. I'll be giving her treats the entire time your child is petting her and the petting session will probably last less than 10 seconds because I want to make sure it's always positive for everyone involved.

Just because she'll put up with a lot from me doesn't mean she'll put up with a lot from everybody.

I've always heard that it takes a village to raise a child and I believe the same is true for my dog. We spend a lot of time training together, but with your help, I can help increase her confidence as she learns that kids aren't scary. Please help us by reminding your children to not ever run at a strange dog and to ask (and listen) before reaching out to pet a dog. If we all work together, our neighborhood will be a safe, happy place for all of us.

Love,
Beth & Barley

Heart Like a Dog

We're participating in the Barks and Bytes blog hop hosted by Heart like a Dog and 2 Brown Dawgs. Be sure to check out all of the other awesome blogs participating this week!

14 comments:

  1. I need to print this out and flyer the neighborhood with it! Seriously, the kids here are terrible. Both of my girls are scared of them. We had one child throw a training wheel at us once, the dogs have been grabbed, etc. It's so bad.

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    1. Poor Zoe and Phoenix! Most of the kids ask if they can pet Barley--but they ask as they're running with arms reaching out for her and I have to do my best to block them while saying, Sorry, she's scared of kids. Then they look like I've just driven a dagger through their hearts and we run away as quickly as possible :)

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  2. When you have a big dog at end of the leash no matter how well behaved, kids can be a challenge. What a great topic for Dog Bite Prevention Week.

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    1. I always bought into those "dogs are always great with kids" myth because I grew up with dogs who grew up with kids. Barley has never really had to spend much time with kids (and now that I'm an adult, I'm also a little wary of children, so I'm sure she senses my discomfort), so it's not something she's had much training with.

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  3. I'm sharing this on my Facebook page, because it's awesome! Even I forget some of these rules when kids ask to pet my dogs. :-) My grandkids forget this too and sometimes run shouting through the house and they're usually followed by Delilah. Which can be kind of scary.

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    1. Thank you! It is easy to forget! Barley's used to me being weird and shouting (usually at a baseball game) and usually just gives me an eye roll. When my brother does it, she usually pounces on him (playfully), but he's big enough to handle it. When she play growls and play nips (without making contact) at a kid, they don't always know she's playing and their freak outs make her freak out.

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  4. This is perfectly written! And I agree with you 100%. All of mine love kids they're familiar with, but we avoid unknown kids at all costs. The risk is just too great, and even with a justified bite it's the dog who'd get blamed.

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    1. Thank you! Barley's never had a chance to really get to know any kids, so we usually avoid all kids, too, unless it's a very calm child and I've got lots of treats to make her think the kid is a good thing!

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  5. Yesssss Maddux is super chill, but he also freaks out when kids just run up to him and surprise him! Hopefully more people will take note of this!

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    1. My nephew is such a good boy. Barley would never handle your neighbor kids as well as he does.

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  6. This is a great letter. I wish all parents would read it. Thanks so much for sharing on the hop.

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