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Little-known trigger an 'open invitation' for dogs to bite children

Did you know this sound was a trigger for dogs?

A dog expert has revealed why many dog toys have squeakers and the answer proves how crucial it is for parents to educate themselves on canine behaviour.

Jacqui Zakar, owner of Dog Sense training in Perth, has shared a warning to parents after hearing the sound of incessant squeaking at a park. She discovered the sound wasn't coming from someone "trying to get [her] dog's attention" with a squeaky toy — but was a toddler walking through the off-leash dog park.

The toddler was with two adults wearing little shoes that made a loud squeaking sound every time they took a step. It's seemingly innocent until you know what the sound triggers in dogs.

"The reason there are squeakers in squeaky dog toys is because it sounds like a prey animal screaming," Zakar shared. "Please don’t buy small children’s shoes that squeak with every step that they take".

Screenshots from Jacqui Zakar's TikTok video showing her speaking to the camera as well as a blurry image of the family with the walking toddler in the dog park.
Dog expert and trainer Jacqui Zakar has warned of the risks of a toddler walking through a dog park with squeaking shoes. Source: TikTok

Squeaking sound triggers a dog's 'prey drive'

Zakar explains that the sound triggers a dog’s prey drive and makes them more enthusiastic to grab a toy or item, bite it and shake it. "[Squeaky shoes] is an open invitation to a dog to run up and wanna bite [your child]," she warns.

Though some responded that it was the owner's responsibility to "control their dogs" Zakar explained dogs most often play with their squeaky toys in their own home where they are allowed "free access to go crazy with them" and in that environment, owners are not often teaching their dogs impulse control with their squeaky toys.

"So even a moderately to even well-trained dog will fail when a squeaky toy is presented in a different environment like this," she said.

Do you have a story about your dog? Contact reporter Laura Koefoed at laura.koefoed@yahooinc.com

Child safety around dogs

RSPCA Queensland shares online that children should always be supervised around dogs and never left unattended, no matter how well they know the dog.

"Hugging, kissing, pulling tails, and getting close to food can all trigger dogs to bite, and children need to learn early the best way of interacting with dogs both in the home and when out in public," they say.

To avoid any incidents, RSPCA states that a set of family rules helps children to understand they must not do things that may frighten or harm their pets and to stop a pet from potentially responding by biting or scratching. Below are just some examples of family rules that "should" be included:

  • Remain calm around pets and end interactions if either the children or pets are becoming overly excited

  • Teach empathy by never allowing children to do anything to pets they are not allowed to do to other children

  • Provide pets with somewhere to retreat to when they need their space

  • Teach children to pick up dogs and cats by supporting their front and hind legs and body, and only under adult supervision

  • Never approach unknown dogs and always ask owners for permission before touching their dogs.

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