My heart sank when I heard a two-year-old boy had been mauled to death by his cousin’s dog. The bull mastiff lived at his grandmother’s house in NSW where the attack occured.
His mum and grandmother tried desperately to save him but his injuries were too severe.
Deeon Higgins died in hospital shortly after the attack. His grandmother had fought to free the boy for 15 minutes before his mother arrived home and successfully rescued her son, but it was too late.
The dog was a mastiff cross named Kingston and this violent behaviour was unusual. He’d never bitten anyone before and wasn’t considered dangerous. He has since been destroyed.
My heart breaks for that little boy and his family.
And it's a sharp reminder: dog and toddlers don’t mix.
Before you start arguing with me, read this first.
I used to be the proud owner of two rottweilers. My husband and I bought them before we started having children. When I fell pregnant we did a lot of research on how to properly introduce the baby to the dogs and how to train the dogs to live with a baby.
We got them used to being locked outside, we were stricter with obedience, we weaned them off sleeping on the bed and the furniture and we fed them outside only.
Before we brought our baby home, we brought home blankets he had been wrapped in and left them where the dogs could smell them, so they became used to his scent. Then on the day he came home, I went in first for a proper greeting from them and then I walked in with the baby.
The dogs sniffed his legs, licked my hand, and walked outside to sunbake.
There were some issues but most were just inconveniences. When I changed his nappy the female would try to get to the nappies. We read that it was her job to clean up when puppies were made a mess so that’s just what she was trying to do.
The biggest issue was that the dogs were so protective. Too protective. If anyone came near baby Philip our female would throw herself in between the person or dog and the baby and snarl.
Good, right? Yes, except when that other person was a child.
Now here's the big reason why I don't think dogs and toddlers mix: dogs have to learn who their masters are. When dogs are faced with toddlers who are the same size as them they either see them as equals or threats. Both of these are bad. If a dog sees a child as an equal it can push them around and nip at them to make it clear they are above them in the family pecking order. This is what they do with their brothers and sisters from birth.
If they see them as a threat, they want them gone.
My husband eventually completely relaxed when it came to our children and our very large dogs but I remained strict and vigilant. It wasn’t until a terrible incident in our own home that my husband saw sense.
We had friends coming over for lunch with their toddler children. My husband and I argued. I wanted to lock the dogs outside but my husband argued that the dogs were used to toddlers. I locked them out anyway and my husband was annoyed.
Our friends arrived and we sat down for lunch. Our friend’s little girl started wandering around. She walked up to the glass sliding door that was separating our dogs from the children. One of our dogs, who had never been anything other than loving and playful, walked up to the other side of the glass door. He and the little girl locked eyes. My husband and I looked up and Baxter began attacking the glass so ferociously our blood ran cold.