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Dear Isaac, Please do not ride the dog

We’re not real big on stating the obvious, but there are times it needs to be stated, especially when it comes to children and dogs.

Case in point:  today’s “Dear Abby” column, in which a reader relates how a 9-year-old visitor to his home climbed aboard his Labrador retriever, possibly causing her permanent injuries.

“Isaac,” the visiting child, who apparently had little experience with canines, was playing with Layla, the retriever, when the homeowner heard him say, “Look, I’m riding your dog!”

“I immediately intervened, but I was too late,” the letter writer said. “A day or so later, Layla was unable to descend our stairway and was clearly in pain. She has been on pain medication for three weeks and is growing progressively worse. The next step is to get X-rays and/or an MRI to see if she has a spinal injury, and then determine her treatment. It’s possible the damage is irreversible.”

The letter writer wasn’t seeking veterinary advice, but wondering how to tell Isaac and his parents about the harm he caused, and keep him from doing it again, without placing “undue guilt on a 9-year-old boy.”

Abby responded to “Heartbroken in New York” this way:

“Children are not mind-readers. If you don’t tell them when they make a mistake, they won’t realize they have made one. Contact Isaac’s parents and explain what happened. If your dog needs treatment, they should be responsible for whatever damage their son did.”

I — though  nobody asked — would add only two things to that. First, that any guilt Isaac might feel on learning what he had done isn’t exactly “undue.” Second, that when your dog is meeting someone new — especially a child — you should be in the room, watching and, if necessary, teaching. It’s very easy for a dog owner to assume everyone knows how to behave around dogs, but it’s also very wrong.

Riding a dog, no matter how big he or she is, no matter what the Internet might tell you — and the photo above is just  one example of some incredibly irresponsible online “expertise” — should simply never be done. Period.

(Photo: Taken from wikiHow.com’s article on “how to ride a dog”)

(Postscript: The day after this article appeared on ohmidog!, the wikiHow article on “how to ride a dog” was taken down.) 



Comment from John
Time March 8, 2011 at 2:01 pm

We hate to hear about this kind of behavior that can harm your dog. Be ever vigilent. Might try a Liquid Dog Vitamin that has anti-inflammatory properties.

Comment from Kelly
Time March 8, 2011 at 3:40 pm


Comment from Dr Bryan Pool
Time March 8, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Heartbroken, please contact an American Veterinary Chiropractic Association doctor ASAP and have Layla evaluated & treated!!!
Our weenie dog sustained a spinal injury and made a complete recovery.

Comment from Sandy
Time March 8, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Hopefully they will consider chiropractic. There are several veterinarian and/or chiropractors who are now trained to provide veterinary chiropractic treatments. Chiropractic has been a huge help to my three dogs!

Comment from Tina
Time March 8, 2011 at 11:43 pm

Great post – and effective. The wiki-how article is no longer there.

We had a giant dog a number of years ago (190lb rott/shep/pyranees mix), and while the 5 and under crowd thought about climbing on and riding him, we were always supervising to make sure they didn’t… he was a great “nanny” – but he did have his limits (don’t we all).

I feel bad for the lab, I hope she is able to recover and be her ol’ self again.

Comment from Cindi
Time March 12, 2011 at 10:48 am

I look for a veterinarian who is also an animal chiropractor. I am constantly amazed at the results. We had a Newfoundland who was riding in a car with his owners when they were involved in a car accident just before leaving for vacation. They brought the dog into our clinic to be put down but the Doc asked if we could board him instead for the 3 weeks that they would be gone. He gave the dog several adjusts during that period and the dog WALKED out to greet his owners when they returned!