Since this event there has been much discussion about who is right and who is wrong. The only real facts that are clear are that Kyle Dyer was bitten on the face. Denver authorities have placed the dog under a 10 day mandatory quarantine and cited the owner (standard procedure). They say that the dog will be returned to the owner if there are no signs of rabies.
I’ve remained intentionally silent, but feel the need to speak out because of the ripple effect that this event is causing. There was an interview with a behaviorist afterwards where he claimed the dog was giving off signals such as moving away and panting. I’ve watched the video several times and none of these signals are that clear. Furthermore, he stated that the dog was suffering from some “residual trauma” from the incident (he was pulled out of the ice a day or so earlier). Residual trauma is often blamed for many behaviors that dogs exhibit whether they are as a result of the trauma or not. The facts should only consider the current events and mistakes that led to the bite. And I use the term bite loosely, because it was a snap. He bared his teeth very quickly and snapped. Yes, he was restrained, but that doesn’t play as much into the incident as the proximity of Kyle’s face.
To be fair to Kyle the newscaster and to the dog there are a couple of things that are not addressed here. First and foremost, putting your face that close to a dogs face is a recipe for disaster. However, people do it ALL of the time. I can go through facebook as well as many rescue sites and see people with their faces right in the face of a dog that they don’t even know. Some people even allow their children to do it. It is downright stupid to do this, it is also selfish, because the dog will suffer after he bites. If you’ve ever seen two dogs playing, grabbing a hold of one another’s faces is one of the most common types of play between dogs. Watching this attack, nothing indicates that he was being aggressive, he just “snapped.” He did give a short snarl as I mentioned above, but by the time he did, it was too late. The person holding the leash never saw that and couldn’t control the subsequent bite.
Take into account the fact that he was not with his owner, he didn’t know the person who was in his face and he was obviously sensitive to the environmental stimuli of the TV studio. Let go of the “past history” for a moment, and any of these, let alone all of them probably put him in a very defensive or uncomfortable position. The person(s) that should be reprimanded here are only the one holding the leash for not telling Kyle not to get that close, and Kyle herself for getting that close in the first place.
I don’t want to go on about her mistake because she is obviously a dog-lover and cared deeply about this dog – mistakes happen. People should learn from the incident and understand that putting your face that close to a dog’s mouth is a bad idea. It is also a bad idea to let your children “play” with your dog unsupervised or in a manner that can cause injury. Dogs play rough, that’s because they are dogs. They know little control, and even if taught still tend to play rough.
Before anyone analyses the dog’s behavior, we need to understand that putting our face in ANY dog’s face is not fair to the dog. The need for humans to over coddle animals leads to mistakes that often cause the animal their lives. I’ve written countless times on the need to allow dogs to be dogs and to understand their need for play. Dog’s don’t like to be confined, coddled, hugged or handled unless it is on their terms. Otherwise, they may tolerate it until they’ve had enough.
Let’s all learn from this, play with a dog the way a dog likes to be played with and save the coddling for children and stuffed animals.