New family dog bites 20-month-old girl on face, experts give advice to avoid similar accidents

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Submitted: Fri, 05/25/2012 - 3:34am
Updated: Fri, 05/25/2012 - 5:14pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A 20-month-old girl is in the hospital after being bitten by a family dog in Wilmington. New Hanover County Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Jerry Brewer says the girl had surgery for major lacerations to her face.

Wilmington Police Department spokesman Det. Kevin Smith says it happened at 218 Southgate Road.

New Hanover County Animal Control Services has the dog, a boxer, in custody. Brewer says the family adopted the dog earlier this week from an elderly woman, but there was no indication the dog had any history of aggression upon adoption. Brewer says the child’s mother expressed some concerns recently about the dog, though.

Brewer says the dog will be quarantined for ten days. After that point, the owner can claim it. If not, the dog will be euthanized.

WWAY has learned that the mother of the child had called several rescue services Thursday, trying to get the family’s adopted boxer picked up because of aggressive behavior. Though advised to board the dog herself, it was too late. The dog attacked her daughter. Fortunately though, there are precautions you can take to avoid this from happening in your family.

Doctor Meghan Tayloe, a veterinarian at the Highsmith Animal Hospital in Wilmington, says before adopting a dog, there are several things to consider. Researching the dog’s breed, upbringing and personality are all very important. She also suggests bringing in the entire family and other pets to see how the dog interacts with them.

“Even if you need to leave the dog on the leash in the beginning to have some control over it, and I mean a short leash, a six foot leash, not a retractable leash,” Tayloe says.

Once in the home, Diane Gallagher of Dog Train, says establishing control and rewarding good habits is key when the dog is interacting with a child.

“We want to reinforce good responses. Introducing the baby, here’s the baby, here’s a piece of cheese or have a piece of liver treat,” Gallagher says. “So the dog thinks ‘baby cool, I get extra treats for this.'”

Gallagher says it is important to bring the dog into the room the child is in, as apposed to bringing the child into a room the dog is in. This ensures the dog will not feel threatened by the child encroaching on its territory. Doctor Tayloe says you can never be too sure what a dog thinks of a child.

“They’re small like prey can be, unfortunately,” she says. “A lot of times children can be more demonstrative than adults can be. I mean, they certainly put them on edge, I mean they grab them and they want to touch them.”

Gallagher says if you decide on adopting a rescue dog, training is imperative.

“The first thing people need to do when the get a rescue dog is investigate training because you lay out the foundation for how you want to live,” Gallagher says. “That’s how you create a relationship, that’s how you create a language of learning with the dog and without that you got nothing.”

She advises prospective dog owners not to adopt until children are at least five years old.

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61 Comments on "New family dog bites 20-month-old girl on face, experts give advice to avoid similar accidents"

2015 years 8 months ago

Diane@dogtrain, your comments regarding this dogs behavior ascribe to a certain set of principles. As a trainer myself, I have run in to a few trainers that follow this philosophy: “there are good dogs and there are bad dogs. Bad dogs cannot be trained.” One trainer I worked with could tell this by just looking at a dog, and seeing if it shifted its gaze when she approached it. If it did not, she deemed it a dog with aggressive traits that was a “problem waiting to happen.” If any of you out there have seen the show “Dog Whisperer” on the National Geographic Channel, you will see how a man who understands dog behavior is able to take a dog with almost any type of problem and reform it. Now, Diane, I will agree that CERTAIN PEOPLE can not handle CERTAIN DOGS. Many people (including celebrities, like Oprah Winfrey, if you ever watched the show) allow their dog to be the alpha. Some dogs are not aggressive to people when they are the alpha, and some can be. As a rule, dogs will do better and behave better when their person is the alpha. There are certain dog breeds that fall in to the submissive state easily, and there are breeds that tend not to be submissive and need continual reinforcement that they are not the alpha. This is easily accomplished with regular training and exercise with the the dogs owner directing and controlling all of the activities. Any dog who perceives himself/herself to be the alpha will act as the pack leader to remain dominant, defend territory, etc. Suggesting that this dog should not be re-homed is suggesting that most dog adopters are incapable of being the alpha. This dog most certainly should be re-homed, probably first in a foster placement with an experienced, alpha trainer. Then the correct home could be located for him/her. The ultimate “tell” or “rub” in this story is not anything with regard to the dogs behavior. He was acting like a dog. It is that the family that adopted the dog saw the dog exhibiting this behavior, but did not see fit to keep their 20 month old child away from it. I am sure these parents feel very badly, and am not writing these comments with the intent to “guilt” them further. They will no doubt have to see the scars left by extremely poor decision-making on their part for a lifetime. But to suggest that this dog should be euthanized is abdicating responsibility for what happened and wrongly assigning blame to the animal.

2015 years 8 months ago

Every living thing on this planet that has teeth can bite you. You should always exercise caution when around something with teeth. Regardless of Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus and Species. Anything with teeth can and will if provoked bite.
My sympathies to the family. As well as the dog.

don't judge
2015 years 8 months ago

Please tell your friend that I feel her pain, my daughter’s nose was partially bitten off by a dog in the neighborhood and she endured many surgeries to reconstruct and now she lives with life long scares on her face. People need to stop passing judgement on this family and understand that this is not the time to place accusations. I hope this little girl is ok, there are wonderful plastic surgeons in Wilmington that can help her. I am reliving the pain we went through by reading this story. My prayers are with your friend and her child.

2015 years 8 months ago

What I would like to say first and foremost, I hope this child will be OK!! Second and very important, PEOPLE , especially children come first in this life. This is a dog that was raised irresponsibly. It gets put down, end of story.

2015 years 8 months ago

The dog had growled at the children and the parents had been advised by their veterinarian to rehome the dog. Instead they allow the children free access to this poor animal that has no idea how to react to children. I am appauled and dumbfounded how parents could put their children and this poor animal in harms way, unbelieveable and so tragic for all involved.