.My point, made recently – that fatalities and serious injuries need to be thoroughly investigated, so we can identify all the contributing factors, evaluate the risks and take preventative action – is supported by another recent fatality.
In this appalling series of events, a three-month old baby girl died as a result of injuries inflicted by her parents’ two Shiba Inus. According to a news report, the baby’s father was asleep on the couch in the living room, with baby on the couch with him. Apparently, the baby fell off the couch, and the two dogs reportedly started playing roughly with her, as if she was a toy. Her exact cause of death is not yet known, and a post mortem will be held.
I apologise for seeming to discuss this dispassionately. It’s not how I feel, but my dog trainer’s analytical brain is kicking in. How can we predict and prevent similar occurrences in the future? The point we have to learn from this is that not every dog-related death is due to “dangerous” or aggressive dogs. An infant is vulnerable. The dogs are relatively small, although sturdily built, but they would not be generally regarded as highly dangerous. They were probably stimulated to take an interest in the baby because she fell off the couch, and her movement on the floor would have caused a predatory interest. This does not necessarily mean she became prey, although, she might have, but a dog’s interest in playing with toys has its origins in prey drive. Quite often, play with toys represents a modified predatory instinct. The dogs may not even have recognised the baby as being human.
These are all very good reasons for making sure dogs and babies are securely separated. The baby should not be at all accessible to the dog. I remember reading about a dog with what was assumed to be a maternal instinct, or a desire to look after a baby, who picked the baby up by the head and carried her in to her mother. I don’t remember whether the baby was injured, but incident was not aggression-related.
Once again, I call for thorough investigation of the whole context, including fine distinctions in the behaviour of the dogs involved. Some knowledge of human behaviour could help here too. We know that babies can sleep safely with their mothers but not their fathers. Fathers tend to sleep through the baby crying, whereas mothers wake up. Mothers will be aware enough, even when asleep, of where the baby is, and will be unlikely to roll on the baby. Fathers sleep more deeply, and can roll over and smother the baby.
This father slept through the events which led to his daughter’s death. One of the dogs went to the bedroom and attracted the mother’s attention.
To prevent similar accidents, we need to understand all the dynamics, and stop looking for pre-conceived “dangerous dogs”.