Why does a prospective insurer ask you if you have a dog and, if so, what kind of dog it is before issuing you a homeowner’s policy?
Well, the obvious answer is that some breeds have a reputation for biting — no matter how much you love pit bulls and other kinds of molossers, you can’t deny the statistics. Dogs bite: some 4.7 million times a year, leading 800,000 humans to seek medical attention, of whom 386,000 will need emergency treatment. A third of all homeowner’s liability claims result from dog bites, at an average cost per claim of $32,072. Every year, the insurance industry shells out over a billion dollars for dog-bite claims.
Figures related to breeds can be confusing — even the placid golden retriever has been responsible for dog-bite fatalities, although a 2000 CDC report showed pit bulls and Rotweilers accounted for 67 percent of fatal attacks.
My son, a claims adjustor for a major US insurance company, once remarked that the most serious injuries insurers cover result from dog bites.
So, on the surface, it sure looks like dogs are a menace on four
wheels feet, eh?
Well. Yeah. However…
The problem, IMHO, is not so much the ferocious dog as the stupid human. What we’re looking at here are statistics largely related to human stupidity.
• Dogs allowed to roam loose or walk off the lead
• Dogs that have been abused
• Energetic working dogs cooped up in someone’s house or apartment
• Dogs that have never been adequately trained
• Dogs not given enough to do to work off energy
• Dogs left unattended outside in a yard, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month
• Dogs bred to fight
• Dogs bred as “guard dogs”
• Dogs whose innate aggressive tendencies have been encouraged
• Children not taught how to behave around dogs
• Adults who don’t know how to behave around dogs
• Kids allowed to tease dogs
• People who get drunk or stoned around dogs, putting themselves at risk
• Humans who overall lack good sense
Oh yeah — and the occasional hapless burglar.
If you look at media reports — many of which admittedly are dramatized by way of selling papers and baiting clicks — you see that the vast majority of dog attacks involve some degree of human stupidity.
• Leaving a tiny infant accessible to a large dog.
• Keeping pit bulls with young children in the house
• Having six dogs around an 87-year-old woman
• Keeping a male pit bull, a female pit bull in heat(!), and a 12-year-old in the same house
• Keeping dogs (time after time after time!) that had previously demonstrated aggression
• Chaining dogs outside in yards
• Letting dogs run loose around a neighborhood or in rural areas
• Allowing small children to approach food-defensive dogs while they’re eating(!!)…one could add “keeping food-defensive dogs at all after a child is born”
• Attempting to feed strange dogs
• Keeping six pit bulls(!) around the house
• Mother sleeps through attack that kills 7-day-old infant sleeping next to her in the bed (what do we drink? what do we snort? what do we shoot up?)
• Mother sleeps through dachshund chewing both legs off an infant (ditto)
• Keeping nine dogs with a three-month-old baby
• Starving dogs until they attack to obtain food
• Leaving six-month-old baby alone with large molosser-type dog
• Bringing nine-day-old infant into home with five molosser dogs
• Interfering in a dog fight involving pit bulls, armed with a garden rake
• Allowing six-year-old to try to ride a pit bull like a horse
Oh god. You could go on and on.
A tiny minority of these reports involve people who are just going about their business and dogs that have never been a problem and apparently never were abused. But about 99.9 percent of the cases entail some kind of stupid behavior on the part of the humans involved.
This brings us to the stupid human incident of the day. No: to the two stupid human incidents of the week.
Stupid Human Incident the First
At this time of year, the corgis and I have to leave the house by 5 a.m. if we’re to get in anything like a dog-and-human walk. So a couple of days ago, we’re out the door shortly after the crack of dawn. About a half-mile from the house, as we enter Richistan (the upscale part of the ‘hood to the east of us), we come upon our neighbor Josie and her daughter with their three Chihuahuaoid dogs.
Josie has the hilarious custom of rolling one of the Chihuahuas around in a baby carriage, on the theory that even though the critter is too old to walk very far, it loves to go out and get fresh air. This is very cute, and as you can guess, Josie is imbued with a degree of charm.
Okay, so Josie y su hija, also a grown woman and, to boot, a law-school graduate, are standing around schmoozing with a neighborhood fixture, a sweet and lonely old guy who amuses himself by driving around and feeding the local cats. If you pass by while he’s out of his car sprinkling cat food on the pavement, he’ll waylay you and feed a treat or two to your dog.
One of the Chihuahuaoids is a mean little bastard. It threatens to attack anyone who comes within ankle-biting distance.
So when I see this clutch up ahead, I veer out into the street to get around them, it being a little early in the morning to enjoy breaking up a dogfight.
Josie & company take the opportunity to slip away.
Naturally, Old Guy pursues me and my dogs.
He asks if it’s OK to give the dogs a treat. I say, “I wish you wouldn’t.”
This is far from the first time I’ve asked this guy NOT to give Milkbones to my dogs.
Why am I such a Scrooge that I don’t want some random guy giving my dogs treats? Let us count the ways…
- They are corgis. Looking at a Milkbone causes them to put on a pound. Possibly a pound per glance.
- They have their own treats. Load them up with Milkbone calories, and when I reward them with their treats for this or that achievement they get too many extra calories.
- Ruby is all over the guy, jumping up on him and totally out of control. I do not want her to get the idea that strangers will give her treats for jumping on them.
- My dog is not your teddy bear.
Ignoring “I wish you wouldn’t,” the old guy grabs a Milkbone out of his car, snaps it in two uneven pieces and tosses them to the two dogs. Ruby grabs the largest piece, which is about 2/3 of a Milkbone made for a Great Dane.
Forthwith, she starts to choke.
Actually, she’s having a reverse-sneezing attack, a common spasmodic condition among corgis. A mild incident looks like this:
When it comes on her with this thing in her mouth, unsurprisingly the crud goes down the wrong way.
Now she’s choking and horking and choking and horking and choking and horking and choking and horking. I realize I’m going to have to get her to the emergency vet — at five in the morning! — but we’re a half-mile from my house and that facility recently moved. I’ll have get her back to the house, look up the veterinary, figure out where the place is, and drive her down there. Meanwhile, my dog is choking to death.
Cassie’s lead tied to a belt loop, I snatch her up off the pavement and start hiking home as fast as I can go. About the time we get to the point where I think I simply can NOT carry her another step, she finally stops heaving.
This has gone on for a good ten or fifteen minutes. But once the spasms stop, she recovers well enough to walk the rest of the way home.
You realize: not only have I told this guy repeatedly not to give my dogs Milkbones, but this is not the first time such an episode has happened! Is there a reason the guy can’t remember that she had a spasmodic attack the last time he handed her a “treat” over my objections?
See what I mean about stupid humans?
So I figure that as long as it’s hot, Cassie and Ruby and I will have to stay out of our favorite part of the ‘hood, since this guy haunts at sunrise.
Stupid Human Incident the Second
So this morning we head south and end up in the park.
I know better than to enter the park at dawn because a LOT of people let their dogs run off the leash there. There’s the constant risk of a dog fight, because these folks don’t seem to understand that the leash laws protect their dogs and them as well as their fellow citizens who pay taxes for the privilege of using the park, too.
It looks clear, though, so I figure we can stroll through one quarter of the park, then come back around and loop through the ‘hood to the south of the Funny Farm, easily racking up a mile or so on the way home.
But naturally, pretty quick along comes an old guy with an aged black lab wandering around loose. Very nice dog: it’s too old and too mellow to argue.
So I’m standing there chatting with him, when along come some dog-walking friends from the Richistan Trail with their strange and funny-looking mutt.
This adorable dog, which is about the size of the lab, is the cutest thing you’ve ever seen in your life. It has champagne-colored curly fur all over and weird blond eyes. I mean, its eyes are a sort of pale transparent tan, very light.
Before they rescued it from the Humane Society, it had been abused. It’s afraid of people, especially men. They’ve been socializing this dog over the past year or 18 months, and the critter has come a long way.
One thing they do to try to convince the dog that it should be happy is take it to the park and let it run around on about a 50-foot lead. The dog loves this, and the interaction it has with other people and their dogs seems to be calming its neuroses considerably.
The old guy wanders off with his lab, and we’re standing there chatting. The ill-trained Ruby wants nothing more than to jump all over this dog (as she jumps all over everyone and everything). Dog is afraid of other dogs, too, but has pretty well overcome this fear and seems to recognize she’s playing.
As I’m about to go on my way, the dog takes off for a romp, dragging this long leash behind. He’s run around me and now wrapped my feet like a Maypole.
And when he shoots off across the park, he yanks me off the feet before his humans can stop him.
I manage to avoid falling on the ground, which has just been irrigated and is your basic pool of mud. This is good, because I have osteoporosis in one hip and would likely have broken that hip if I’d hit the dirt.
What I get instead is a rope burn around both ankles:
Is this their stupidity, my stupidity? Yeah: combined human stupidity. They should’ve had their dog at heel and not let it race around until they were clear of other people and dogs. I should have been paying attention instead of yakking with my friends and letting Ruby bounce around.
Note to self: Stay out of the park, stupid!
It doesn’t leave a lot of places to walk in the neighborhood: Can’t go through Richistan. Can’t go anywhere near Conduit of Blight, which thanks to the train construction is now awash in bums and creeps. That leaves an area to the north of us, not the greatest part of the ‘hood, and a small area to the south. Boring.
About the only way to get any variety, then, as long as it’s hot, will be to put the dogs in the car and drive to the canal or take them to the Murphy Bridle Path along north Central. And between you & me, stuffing the dogs in the car, hauling them someplace, getting them out, stuffing them back in the car, and hauling them home is counterproductive. It’s enough hassle to discourage me from taking them out at all.
Hence, this rant.
Can anything constructive come of a rant? How about this…
How to Avoid Dog Bites
• Never leave an infant or small child sleeping where a dog can reach it.
Close the bedroom door if the dog is at large in the house with you while the child is napping. Crate the dog or tie it by a leash to a doorknob if you intend to nap while the child sleeps.
• Never allow a child to tease a dog.
• Never let a child to try to ride a dog.
• Never leave a child unattended with a dog, in the yard, in a vehicle, or in the house.
• Teach your children to stay away from dogs that are eating.
• Crate-train your dog so that it can be kept out of harm’s way and gets a break from the kiddies. Train your children to leave the dog alone when it’s enjoying some private time in its crate.
• Teach your child always to ask permission before petting a dog.
• Teach your child not to wave her or his arms around when near a dog (dogs perceive this as a threat).
• Teach your child to avoid unknown dogs and leave the vicinity if they see a loose dog.
• Don’t allow your child to drag a small dog around, pick it up, or play “dress-up” with a dog.
• Do not keep a pack of dogs in a household with children.
• Never let your dog run loose. Anywhere. No, not even in dog parks. Especially not in dog parks.
• Do not chain your dog outside in the yard.
• Do not idiotically train your dog to be aggressive, and never keep a dog that has shown aggression toward humans.
• Unless you’re an experienced trainer and you have exceptionally good sense, avoid molosser breeds. Many or most of these dogs have been bred as protection, fighting, or herding dogs; they are large, powerful, and potentially dangerous. Some are unpredictable and have a short fuse.
• When you reach the age of decrepitude — say, over the age of about 60 — choose a pet dog that is not big enough or strong enough to overwhelm you. Bear in mind that you will not get any stronger as you get older, and that most large dogs can easily overpower an elderly or disabled person: not necessarily in an aggressive mode. Accidents happen…don’t invite any that are worse than they need to be.
• Do not drink when you have a dog around.
• Do not use drugs when you have a dog around.
• Try to use common sense, forhevinsake. If you don’t have any, see if you can buy some! Maybe you can get an inoculation or something. Arghhh!
Image: Cane Corso, By Kumarrrr – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1688119