Muzzle all dogs or keep children under control?

Coco on the beach
Coco on the beach

We experienced a quite horrid incident yesterday, in Skegness on a day-trip, and it left us with quite a bitter taste in our mouths.

Whilst standing on a wide walkway, with Coco the dog sat next to me on her double lead, connected to her harness, a small child came straight up to her, put one hand under her snout and one hand at the side and started staring into her eyes. Even though Coco did not react, I pulled her lead backwards, put my hand between her and the child, and said to the child quite firmly: “No! You don’t go straight up to a dog and put your hands in its face, you could get bitten”. At this point, the “mother” came scuttling backwards, having walked on long before, having no idea where her child was or what it was doing, took the child away and started mouthing about us needing to keep control of our dog!

Now I can only assume that the woman was angry that someone had told her child off that wasn’t her – so much for society being responsible for the raising of our young – but I really saw no need for her response. I was concerned for and caring about her son. Our dog had done nothing wrong, and frankly, if the kid had done that to a differently mannered dog, a bull terrier type for example, then he could easily have lost an arm or even his life. If the child had done the same to another human being, then the human would probably have responded with violence of some sort too – why did she feel it was OK for her spawn to treat Coco like a toy, and assault her with no consequences?

Of course, being the calm, placid, difficult to rattle creature that I am πŸ™‚ , I immediately blew up and suggested that whilst my dog was under control and on a lead, perhaps she should have control of her child and put *him* on a lead. I remember having reins when I was a child, and I’ve seen loads of kids with the long plastic loop straps around their wrists, or attached to back-packs, so this is not too big a leap in my mind. Wow – what a reaction that got. This horrible, loud mouthed wretch came screaming loudly towards me, effing and jeffing about how she could sue me, that my dog should have a muzzle on it, that I shouldn’t be taking it to the beach – her face was contorted in such an ugly, foul way, and the screeching was probably upsetting bats a couple of miles away. Oh, and what a wonderful example to set for her children…

How the hell did my dog sitting calmly whilst her son assaulted it in such a way that would cause aggressive response in any other mammal, suddenly turn into Coco needing a muzzle and not being allowed to go to the seaside? The only conclusion I can draw from this is that she feels that dogs are toys, that they can be played with at any time by any child, and even be ridden around like a donkey and have their tails pulled whilst being kicked, but we should muzzle them in case they react negatively. Is that right? Is this a common view, that children don’t need to be monitored, taught or controlled, and that all dogs should be muzzled just in case their child fancies having a bit of fun at an animal’s expense?

Time for my next reaction… πŸ™‚ I suggested (with a few effs and jeffs of my own!) that she should tell her son not to approach dogs like that, to which she responded (loudly, and viciously, with that ugly, contorted face) that she was a dog breeder and knew how dogs should react. I call bullshit! Not only did she not have any dogs with her, and multiple small children, but anybody who knows dogs at all understands that you cannot, no matter how long you have known them, understand how they may react to any situation. You would also know that dogs don’t like being stared at (it’s an agressive signal), and that holding their muzzles is a very unpleasant thing to do. Anybody who knows and understands dogs teaches their children (and the children of others that come close) that you always ask the person holding the lead’s consent before approaching a dog, and you NEVER, EVER, just shove your hands towards their faces. Dogs are not rocket science, and teaching children to respect animals and have respect for their own safety should be natural for a caring parent.

By this time, I’m not sure who was loudest, me or her, but my hackles were up, my heart rate had jumped from 70 to 150 (I checked later on my monitoring app!), and I was in full “somebody’s attacked my pack” mode. I made it clear that I felt she did not care for her children, not knowing where they were or what they were doing, what danger they could be in etc. To be fair, when a stranger in the street cares more about your children’s safety than you do, it’s time to consider getting them adopted out. I suggested that it would be better if she needed a license to have children. OMG – that one struck a nerve. She came running at full pelt towards me, and I’ve just got that horrible image of the nasty, creased, contorted face coming at me. If my wife hadn’t stood between us, trying to calm her down, I’m not sure what would have happened next. She was screaming that you “don’t need a piece of paper for a child”, she just pointed at her belly and shouted “YOU JUST HAVE THEM”. Wow – I guess *my* biology lessons were a waste of time!

By then I was just responding with the “You clearly don’t care about your kids” and “You’re just a fucking nutjob” lines, and I think she gave up at that point, and strutted off with both her and her male partner screaming “Muzzle it”, “Muzzle”, all the way up the street.

A chap who’d been sat in his van, watching the scenario unfold, drew up alongside us and made it very clear he felt there was only one bitch in that scenario that needed a muzzle, and it wasn’t Coco! A very kind young girl also came over to us, to make sure Coco was alright, and another family came over to give Coco a little stroke (with permission!) and fuss. Coco didn’t care – she just knew there was a beach a couple of hundred yards away, and wondered why we weren’t taking her to it right then and there so that she could swim and dig!

So who’s right here? Do animals deserve to be treated with respect, or should children have the right to play with them as they see fit? Are dogs public toys, or are they individual creatures with their own thoughts and feelings? Should animals be muzzled so that people don’t have to suffer the inconvenience of teaching their children appropriate behaviour, or simply looking after them and knowing where they are and what they are doing?

I really hope that it’s the former, that animals deserve our respect, and that we should understand that they might not like some treatment, and may respond in their own way, as their own species would do to each other.

I’d love to hear your thoughts – please leave me a comment below!

The Zoo Keeper

By TheZooKeeper

An Azure Cloud Architect with a background in messaging and infrastructure (Wintel). Bearded dog parent who likes chocolate, doughnuts and Frank's RedHot sauce, but has not yet attempted to try all three in combination!

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