'Ask the Dog Guy' with John Wade

Embracing Science and Common Sense

Another Dumb Idea To Keep Children From Being Bitten By Dogs

WARNING – Long

A virtual dog could soon be used as an educational tool to help prevent dog bites, thanks to an innovative project led by the University of Liverpool’s Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC)

– University of Liverpool. “Meet the virtual pooch that could help prevent dog bites.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 August 2018. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180825081739.htm.

Here’s why I believe this well-meaning idea is another waste of time when it comes to preventing dog bites:

Virtual Reality Dog

We have had approximately 50 years of approaching teaching child safety around dogs from every conceivable angle, and there is zero evidence linking these programs to any significant impact whatsoever. Zero. So time plus money = children still being bitten in far too significant numbers. Hmmm.

Child safety around dogs programs is more a virtue signaling ‘heartstring’ industry cultivated by dog lovers either with little to no understanding or just enough to be dangerous understanding of the realities regarding canine and human (child) behavior and development than an effective strategy to reduce dog bites.

Before another dollar is invested in the name of “science” in solving this severe problem, they should first consider why the significant number of children bitten yearly has never been significantly impacted by the considerable investment in these programs.

If they really want answers wouldn’t it make sense to mandatorily look at the actual data to see if any program ever has had any significant impact (none has) before investing anymore? Tiny and non-permanent and unverifiably connected blips are not significant for this serious a problem.

If we want to actually solve the problem we need to change direction or at least add and give major focus to avenues more likely to produce dividends. I would suggest that the next step is to investigate why all this time and money invested in educating children isn’t significantly helping.

  1. No program can stop a child from being a child
  2. The formulae for being a perfect, infallible, omniscient be everywhere all the time parent has not been discovered.

Are there preventable cases that occur due to parental stupidity? Absolutely. What overall percentage though? Noone looks at that. Why? Because, (at least in my own considerable experience assessing dog involved in biting incidents), the numbers are minimal. One would think that there would be far more children removed from their parents if failure to educate and supervise was actually the problem as the dogs keep biting year after year.

This problem will never be significantly improved upon until the actual core issues are acknowledged and addressed and that will require a considerable and much more significant focus on areas other than children and parents – AND EXTRICATING THE MOUNTAIN OF ILL QUALIFIED INDIVIDUALS AND ASSOCIATIONS FROM ADVISORY POSITIONS. That will be no easy task as they won’t go quietly.

Have a look at the actual qualifications of those doing the advising (official and non-official rescues, amateur dog trainers, dog training associations based on ideology rather than science, breeders that are often no more than puppy mills with better living conditions, etc.) Lovers of dogs and virtue signaling addicts usually – Yes. Rarely more than that and when asked for legitimate science by those actually qualified they ultimately fall apart or go ad hominem.

Educating children and parents aren’t entirely barking up the wrong tree, but there are a few trees with fruit much more potential to influence.

DOG TRAINERS, veterinarians, vet techs and BREEDERS need to learn more about dog aggression. Before uttering a word of advice, they need to more fully understand aggression in dogs and actual legitimate applicable science of behavior modification. I assure you the vast majority do not. Only then will we begin to embrace strategies that I believe will be far easier to implement and far more likely to positively impact. Certainly more than the ludicrous idea that virtual dogs, coloring books, games, etc. will ever stop children from being children let alone don’t take into account the day to day realities of actually parenting a child along with all the other hats a parent must simultaneously wear. We need to acknowledge that these programs have reached the limits of reasonable expectation.

We have excellent scientifically based ideas of why dogs bite. (Breed Genetics, Bloodlines, Critical Socialization Period Experiences, Developmental Transition Periods (teen to adulthood), Age of Dog, Training Method, Historic Equipment Use, Household Makeup (current and projected), Relationship Between Dog And Owner, Influence of Environment on Behavior and Training, Handling Ability and Experience of Dog Owner, Lifestyle of Dog Owner).

I would be stunned if 1% of those behind the current “fix the victim” based dog bite prevention programs know enough about the factors listed above to be in a position to advise anyone. From a science perspective, they are often scientifically on par with flat-earthers and anti-vaccinators.

Any dog bite prevention programs with short or long-term strategies that do not incorporate emphasizing the addressing the highly influential factors listed above are doomed to have little or no significant impact.

I would suggest considering the following as a start:

1. Perhaps one should know more about dogs than the difference between a male and female before they are allowed to be a “breeder.”

2. Maybe to call oneself a dog trainer one should know more about dog behavior then the shallow ideologies of ‘Might Is Right’ or ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free (The Lady and The Tramp was not a documentary).’

3. Perhaps the university and college institutions charged with educating our veterinarians and veterinary technicians should take a hard look at their behavior component curriculums. Why are so many recent, new graduates coming away thinking that training and managing a companion dog in real-world settings using ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free’ ideology is actually science based? How is it they have not embraced the critical thought component that should form the foundation of their education and noticed that no species uses the methods embraced in the Orca’s aquarium or the rat’s maze to teach relationship and survival skills? What about all the science that might actually help a companion dog and companion dog owner – evolutionary biology, phylogeny, ethology, evolution, evolutionary psychology, sociobiology, anthropology, and so much more. How did it get buried and replaced with nonsense when behavior is such an essential component of what is to come in professional practice? Perhaps more important than when and how they should look at who.

4. Perhaps governments should start getting advice from actual field experts and research scientists capable of making a distinction between the rats in Skinner’s lab or an Orca in an aquarium and the real world of companion dog ownership as opposed to taking direction from the admittedly hard to ignore shrill incessant clamoring of ill-qualified animal rights activists, social justice warriors, people that love animals but hate people etc.

Further reading:

1. Blaming Children (and Parents) For Being Bitten By Dogs Needs To Stop – http://www.askthedogguy.com/blaming-children-bitten-dogs-n…/
2. Stop With The Fur-Baby and Pet-Parent Nonsense – http://www.askthedogguy.com/dog-trainers-words-matter-ques…/

Regards,

John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
Embracing Science and Common Sense