We need to discuss why a Chow-Chow cross dog called Teddy attacked a 12-day-old baby and killed him after escaping from his pen. The parents of the child and the owner of the dog had been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter by gross negligence. So, a terrible tragedy has happened to this family. It’s a nightmare.
Teddy is said to have lept out of his pen and run into the house to attack the baby. The mother was upstairs on the toilet and her partner and the child’s dad, Stephen, was in the garden when it happened. It seems that the pen was not enclosed on all sides because Teddy was able to jump out of it to run through an open door into a downstairs room where the baby was in a Moses basket.
The description of the attack implies that the dog had one thing on mind; he wanted to go into the home and investigate the source of the sounds made by the baby which lead to biting (see below). Teddy had been fine before. No trouble at all, apparently. He is described as a big softy.
This is not the first time that a dog has killed a baby and it won’t be the last. One theory is that a baby can prompt aggression in a dog because of the following factors: the smell of the baby, the sound the baby makes, the way a baby might stare at a dog, the movement a baby makes running around et cetera, and the fact that dogs don’t have much contact with babies and therefore they are an unfamiliar creature to them and finally there is jealousy or hierarchy.
The last possibility is an interesting one which is also being discussed online in the media. Apparently we don’t have much research to rely on. It is not clear whether dogs can experience this higher emotion. Dogs can give the impression that they are jealous but this might be people projecting their emotions and their thoughts onto their dog.
Dogs live in a hierarchy and perhaps the introduction of a baby into the social structure of the home may upset them. A veterinarian, Scott Miller, writing for the Daily Mail newspaper explains why babies and small children appear to be targets for dogs.
When a baby comes into the home, the parents transfer their love from the dog to the baby. The dog becomes “just a dog”. He believes that this causes the dog to become jealous. He believes that dogs can have complex feelings although he does understand that some scientists argue that such a complex emotion may be beyond animals. However, Mr Miller says that he sees these sorts of higher emotions at his clinic all the time. For example he had just treated a dog who was mourning for his mate because she had just died.
He also subscribes to the view that an infant’s very strong smell may have been a factor. A baby smells 10,000 times more powerfully than an adult human which may be an “assault on its senses”. Add to that the noise the baby makes which will impact a dog greatly because their hearing is 10 times better than a human’s particularly as babies make high-pitched sounds to which dogs are highly attuned.
This sort of sound excites a dog. He likens the scream of a baby to the sound of a prey animal screaming in pain after it has been bitten. It appears that the sound of a child can excite a dog to become aggressive and bite. Animal experts say that if you have been bitten by a dog you must keep quiet otherwise your noise will encourage the dog to bite more.
The baby may have immediately cried after being attacked by Teddy and that would have encouraged Teddy to bite more and kill the baby. It may have started off with Teddy investigating the baby crying. Dogs investigate with their mouths and nose so these elements of the dog’s anatomy would have been very close to the child. Because of this the baby might have squealed or screamed which made matters far worse for the reasons described.
And dogs will attack the face as it is the source of the noise which is bothering them. He also agrees that as babies don’t blink very often it can seem confrontational to a dog. In the wild dogs don’t look at each other in the eye but keep their heads down and appear deferential. Unless, that is, they want to achieve dominance. A stare indicate an intent to achieve dominance. This impression may have been enhanced by the fact that children are a similar size to dogs.
What should have happened and what should always happen is that a child should not be unsupervised when a dog is around in the home. It seems to be pretty much as simple as that. This is why the parents of this child whose name is Elon have been charged with a very serious crime as mentioned. They are currently on bail awaiting the next hearing. If they are convicted in a court of law the maximum sentence that they can be ordered by a judge is life imprisonment which is 18 years followed by parole. There may be other penalties.