A dog groomer says owners should "set boundaries" with their pets to help keep their children and family safe. Stephanie Zikmann, 31, said that the rise in dog attacks has left her “fearful” and she wants to educate people on how to safely interact with their pets.
Stephanie said that dog owners should have a space in their homes for their dogs to relax alone and not punish their pets for growling or showing their teeth. The groomer’s comments come after there has been a 26% rise in dog bites since 2020 with 614 children being bitten by a dog between 2021 and 2022.
Stephanie from East Ayrshire, Scotland, said: "There have been so many dog attacks at the moment. I often deal with dogs that are branded as aggressive but what I have realised is that they aren’t and just pick up on stress.
"When it comes to children, what we are finding is there are not enough boundaries in a place that allows the family and the dog to live in harmony." One way in which you can safely interact with your pet is by setting boundaries in your home.
Stephanie said: "Parents can put in place boundaries to provide the family dog with a comfortable “safe space” that is set up with the dog in mind, where he will not need to worry about being interrupted - a no-children zone is important. You see a lot of children climbing on top of dogs when they are sleeping - this is a huge bite risk.
"Dogs are extended members of the family but we have to expect that they have different needs and feelings - we need to think about the consequences of our actions." The groomer also said that owners should avoid "reckless social media trends" like dressing their dog up or harassing them for a reaction.
She said: "This is high-risk of potential dog bites and risks a dog being destroyed should he bite. Pet owners must remember that dogs have bad days too, and even the most placid dog can bite if in pain, not feeling well or is spooked."
When your pet starts to growl or bears their teeth, Stephanie said that dog owners should not punish their furry friends. She said: "Growling and/or bearing teeth should never be punished since this is one of the most valuable communicative signs a dog can do to show us he is not comfortable.
"If a dog growls, pet owners/professionals should observe the situation to identify what is causing the dog to behave that way. This gives them great insight into what to avoid going forward."
Stephanie said that owners should use "positive training" and "cooperative care" when dealing with their pets. She said: "Dogs respond best when their emotional needs are acknowledged, therefore utilising an approach that allows the dog to decide for himself whether a task, environment or object is safe is far better than forcing him to succumb to it regardless.
"We can introduce new stimuli using positive reinforcement and desensitisation methods helping the dog to build positive associations with the world around him."
Top tips for keeping you and your family safe around dogs
- Learn how to communicate and understand dogs better
- Set boundaries
- Avoid social media trends
- Don’t punish your dog for showing teeth
- Supervise your children and dog
- Use Cooperative Care and Positive Training