Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Smooch your Pooch" children's book review

My head exploded at the Scholastic book fair Friday morning at precisely 8:52 AM. Well it didn't explode per say, but I was seen acting a bit like a crazy person. A few kiddos close to me may even had heard me mutter the H E double hockey stick word. There I was with my 9 year old daughter sleepily picking out a few books when I opened what appeared to be a cute dog book and BAM! The very first page of Smooch your Pooch is a dog bite waiting to happen.

The book is geared for 4 and up! Four and ups! Certainly it could understood by kids as young as 2.

What were the words that made my head explode? What were the words aimed at children that could with no exaggeration result in them getting bit by a dog square in the face?

Smooch your pooch to show you care, give him a hug anytime, anywhere.

Holy Hell!
Dogs do not understand hugs. Dogs do not hug each other. Teach your kids not to hug dogs, especially strange dogs that they do not live with. Many dogs will tolerate hugs from their own family, but will not tolerate hugs from strangers. Besides which what about if the dog is sleeping, or eating or any number of other things?  That is bad advice for a child for any animal.  Animals are not hanging around just hoping  we will come and disturb them.

Applied Animal behaviorist Dr. Patricia McConnell explains it this way in her book The Other End of the Leash.

"Dogs don't hug...and often they don't react kindly to those who do. Your own dog may benevolently put up with it , but I've seen hundreds of dogs who growled or bit when someone hugged them."

Personally I have had many dog bite training cases where the kid's were bit in the face after they put their faces right up to the dog's and kissed and hugged it. Often times the dogs gave clear warning signs that were missed. In many of these cases the dogs were inadvertently hurt by the child, were already over stimulated, or just plain had enough.

Starting in my puppy classes I show owners how to teach restraint and to teach pups to accept and tolerate hugs, but this lesson always comes with a caveat.

Dogs are canines and we are primates. Being of different species we are bound to misunderstand each other .Humans hug to show affection and to comfort, while the closest thing a dog has to a hug is mounting, which can be interpreted as aggression. While it is true that most dogs learn that we don't really mean any harm, some remain uncomfortable and won't tolerate it.

So I ask you, even if your own personal dog loves any and all attention, is it not negligence to teach the opposite of safe dog behavior via a very cute picture book?

I have been giving my  Kids and Dog safety demo  free to qualifying groups going on 15 years, and I have been a presenter for  the national program Dogs And Storks   going on three years and I  sure think so.


Kellie Roberts said...

Thank you for this important post, Nancy. Hopefully people will heed your message.

I would like to add a comment where adults are concerned on this same topic. During transports, on You Tube rescue videos, etc., you see people smooching/hugging on strange, stressed dogs all the time and it drives me nuts. These people are to be admired for their efforts, certainly! I find it amazing, though, that the knowledge of animal behavior is often so limited among those who care the most about animals. I feel sorry for these dogs, most of whom you can see are just cringing, wanting the smoocher/hugger to back off. It only adds to the stress level of most of these dogs and should they react negatively (in human terms) it could mean in some situations that they would be deemed 'unadoptable' and we all know where that can lead.

jen said...

awesome post! I wish we had cute children's books touting the opposite - the proper way to greet known and unknown dogs!

Sophia said...

I agree. Everyone should get on amazon and give a bad review.

Karen Cannard CPDT-KA said...

Thank you! We have forwarded on in facebook as well! How many times have people told me in an interview for training, well it was just a small nip on my grandson's face. He tried to kiss the new dog!
What crazy advice! Anything to sell a book I guess!

Karen Cannard CPDT
Professional Dog Trainer

Brimful Curiosities said...

This was a popular seller at our fair as well. I think the fuzzy spots on the cover made it irresistible to some. I didn't really even think about the biting issue. Thanks for bringing it up. No danger of my kids getting all mushy with dogs. They know to keep their distance. Stuffed animals on the other hand get plenty of kisses.

Poochette said...

There is a great little book called "May I Pet Your Dog?" that we just read to a group of schoolchildren. It's all about teaching young children how to be safe around unfamiliar dogs, respecting a dog's space and knowing when or when not to approach one.

Not as Big of a Deal... said...

yes, I agree with you about this being the inappropriate way to greet a dog, but it is a book. That's it. How many people read "Hop on Pop" and took that to me actually go Hop on their Pop? It's just a cute rhyming book with fuzzy spots, let's take it as that.

It's not a children's fiction book's job to educate proper behavior around dogs, it's the parents'. So, accept it as a cute book, and have some faith in parents that will teach their kids to not Hop on Pop.

dawn said...

I understand your point "not a big deal".. but unfortunately there are so many parents out there that don't know the proper way.. and if you have kids, you know that they do mimic what they read/see.. and the catchier the book and rhymes.. the more likely they are to remember... I work with my dogs and on a daily basis have parents telling their kids to come give the dogs a hug... or even to kiss a strange dog... I know you have to take it at face value.. that it is just a book... but there needs to be some responsibility when people print books/ produce tv shows, etc. to have the right information out there. I am sure the author is just a dog lover and didn't realize what she may be suggesting to kids.. it is the parents job to teach... but some of the parents need to be taught as well!!