Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dog talk with Uncle Matty: Babies and dogs: Unedited

In comic strips, country songs and Disney films, dogs and babies go together like Batman and Robin. In real time, where potential danger and acts of instinct and nature can’t be edited out, dogs and babies require constant supervision and should never be left alone in a room together.

In September 2009, in Jacksonville, N.C., a 12-week-old pit bull chewed the toes off the left foot of a 4-month-old infant as the child’s mother slept in the same room. Robie Lynn Jenkins had taken medication that induced a sleep deep enough to drown out her infant’s cries through the night. Jenkins’ boyfriend, Tremayne Spillman, was also asleep in the room. The couple claims they were watching the puppy as a favor to a friend who is in jail on gun charges. They now face charges of their own: felony child abuse.

Before everyone screams “pit bull,” a reminder:

Only a month earlier, in Lexington, Ky., the owners of a Native American Indian Dog spotted the family pup trotting toward the woods behind their back yard with their newborn infant in his jaws. Four-day-old Alexander James Smith suffered two collapsed lungs, a skull fracture and numerous cuts and bruises.

A year before that, in Tulsa, Okla., a 6-week-old black Labrador fatally mauled 2-month-old Zane Alen Earles as he sat unattended in an infant swing in the family’s living room. Several relatives were home at the time.

In January 2008, 8-month-old Andrew Stein was inexplicably and fatally mauled by a 7-year-old chocolate Doberman pinscher, the Stein family pet from puppyhood, with no history of aggression.

And in 2001, a 4-pound Pomeranian killed a 6-week-old girl in Los Angeles as she lay in her crib.
Afterward, L.A. sheriff’s deputy Cruz Solis commented, “Obviously it doesn’t take much to kill a 6-week-old baby, but it’s not something that happens with that breed.”

Obviously, it is.

The point is, no dog, no matter how small, no matter how gentle, no matter how stable his temperament, no matter his perceived love of children, his intelligence, his experience, his playfulness or his affection for you, should ever be left alone in a room with a small child — for even a second.

It’s not about the breed of dog. It’s about the fragility of an infant. Babies are vulnerable. They lack the strength and coordination to defend themselves. And neither baby nor dog possesses the ability to communicate with the other. A little ambiguous roughhousing is all it takes for a small child to be seriously wounded — even by a small dog.

What do these incidents have in common? A parent or close relative was in the home but not in the room during every one of these encounters. And most of these tragedies involved family pets that had no history of aggression.
When it comes to babies and dogs, it’s important to know that there are no predictors to what might happen. The only way to ensure the safety of your child is to keep baby and dog securely separated in the absence of close parental supervision. It’s best for the baby. And it’s best for the dog.

Dog trainer Matthew “Uncle Matty” Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series “WOOF! It’s a Dog’s Life!” Read all of Uncle Matty’s columns at, and visit him at Send your questions to or by mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs 95619.

Copyright 2013 Creators Syndicate Inc. 

Matthew Margolis


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