Owie!

They say dogs are good for you. Having just limped into the office with a nasty case of ‘nylabone foot’, I’m beginning to wonder!

If you’ve ever stood on one of these in the dark, in bare feet, I won’t have to explain the pain, the jumping about, or the expletives! And all this after laughing my head off having read about a top footballer who had to take six months off after dropping a jar of peanut butter on his foot. Clearly, karma at work.

Dogs reduce blood pressure in people that are stroking them. Dog owners suffer from fewer minor ailments, such as colds and flu, and many studies have shown that dogs are excellent for human health and well being, both short and long term. However, what nobody ever talks about are the many and various trivial ‘owies’ that dog owners quietly suffer: random toy injuries being just one.

I have thought long and hard about this. During the day, safety reigns. However, in true ‘I Am Legend’ style, once night starts to fall, I swear that dogs plant knobbly lumps of nylon around the house in the hopes of a misplanted step in the dark.

Here are just a few of the other canine health and safety transgressions that my friends, colleagues and clients have reported over the years…

Paws up
It looks so sweet – the cute way your doggie gives you his paw when you are sitting on the sofa. However, cue the psycho music…your visitor is sitting on the sofa holding a glass of red wine or hot coffee and wearing white trousers, shorts – or horror, of horrors… tights
Frankly anyone planning to teach this behaviour should carry out a full risk assessment before proceeding! Of course, getting the behaviour on cue means that the dog should never just throw the behaviour at you without being asked… but after all, this is the real world. You just know your dog will do it for sport whenever he gets the chance. Maybe investing in a ‘dog-proof’ coffee table (yes, there really is one on the market) is the answer?

Extending lead rope burn
Very, very nasty and to be avoided at all costs. The thin cord of the average extending lead can cut through skin like cheese wire if you attempt to grab it. Unfortunately, this is easily done if you reach for the cord in an emergency. Indeed, it’s been known to cause such horrible cuts that hospital treatment is required. If you use an extending lead, train yourself and others never to grab at the cord, no matter what the circumstance - or buy one that has a flat tape instead of thin cord. Tethering the dog using an extending lead is just asking for trouble. Before you know it, you – and the dog – will be securely tied like flies in a web. The nylon cord is almost impossible to loosen. If you ever wanted to stage a kidnapping, this would do the job admirably.

Boxer-nose
It’s enough to bring tears to the eyes just thinking about this. There you are, petting the dog, and suddenly it beings it’s rock-hard head up so that it’s skull impacts with either your chin or your nose. Tears flood your eyes and you check your front teeth, convinced that they must be broken from the impact. Boxers have to be the worst culprits for this, but they are not the only perpetrators – perhaps it’s just that they have harder heads than any other breed!
Petting dogs side-on and without leaning over them is better canine manners, and may protect you from such an injury, but I have known dogs to bounce head height to get close to your face and then make impact when you least expect it. If your dog is prone to this behaviour, teaching him or her a reliable alternative behaviour may be the answer. A sit can be useful as long as the dog doesn’t learn to shoot upwards from this position like a bullet from a gun – in some cases, giving the dog a toy to carry is far more effective.

Slam dunk
There you are, happily walking your dog in the calm of the park. Birds tweeting, the wind rustling the trees, when suddenly you feel something akin to a scud missile hitting the backs of both legs. Your knees buckle and you crumple to a heap on the floor from where you have a whole new view – the very Labrador that just knocked you unceremoniously to the ground is now finishing you off with his extraordinary breath and drowning you in slobber.
Of course, I use the term Labrador loosely – so loosely that it really could read ‘any dog large and enthusiastic enough to knock you over by slamming into the backs of your legs’. Small and enthusiastic dogs will, of course, appear in front of your feet and trip you up – quite a different technique but often with a similar result.

This sort of behaviour seems to be pretty much confined to large, adolescent dogs who haven’t yet learned how to use their braking systems. Teaching your dog to do an emergency sit or down at a distance can be useful, as well as playing with toys in the park to maintain at least an arm’s length between you and the dog on most occasions can help. Finally, if dogs are playing mad games around you, bend your knees as if skiing – this can significantly help to reduce the effect of the impact if the worst happens. Alternatively, full body protection might be a plan until your dog grows out of his desire to loop-the-loop at top speed in your vicinity.

Please add to this list… I’d like to know I’m not alone as I limp around the office.

Now, repeat after me… “Dogs are good for you…”