On February 8, Colorado’s 9NEWS morning Kyle Dyer was bitten in the face by a dog while interviewing Max, an 85-pound Argentine Mastiff, Max’s owner Michael Robinson, and the firefighter who rescued the dog from a freezing reservoir after he had fallen through the ice.
During the interview, Dyer sat down on the floor directly in front of Max, holding his face in her hands, looking at him and talking over his head to his owner and the firefighter. Then the dog lashed out and bit Dyer on the face.
Vice President of News at 9NEWS Patti Dennis said in an article at 9news.com, “The dog bite accident that happened [Wednesday] at 9NEWS was unfortunate and certainly not expected based on what we knew about the dog and his owner.”
It might not have been expected based on the dog’s past behavior. But if you’re the slightest bit familiar with dog behavior, Max’s bite was not unexpected at all. In fact, he was communicating very loudly and very clearly that he was stressed, feeling trapped and getting ready to express those feelings in a more forceful way.
First, I want to make sure that everyone understands that Dyer’s injuries, while not life threatening, are very, very serious. She underwent reconstructive surgery, received 70 stitches and a skin graft, and had her mouth sewn shut to allow blood blood to circulate through the graft. I cannot express enough how much pain and suffering she has to be experiencing. Please keep her in your prayers; you can follow her progress on her Facebo0k page.
Max is back home as well, after spending a mandatory 10 days in quarantine. His owner was cited because his dog bit someone, for a leash-law violation because he did not have control of the dog at all times, and for not having Max vaccinated for rabies.
This was a tragic incident all around. So it’s important to take a moment to go back and see where things went wrong, so that other people can hopefully avoid the same outcome. Because even a nice dog with no bite history will bite under the right circumstances.
1) Humans have to understand that dogs are not put on the earth for us to do whatever we want with, whenever we want. A dog is a living, breathing creature who may or may not want to be pet, pulled on, or surrounded by people. But whenever we see a dog, we immediately bend down and start putting our hands all over the animal like we’re playing with a stuffed animal. We get right in their faces, and put our arms around their necks, and generally immobilize them. We wouldn’t touch a strange human that way; we shouldn’t touch a dog that way, either. A dog has emotions that need to be respected.
3) We need to listen when animals are talking to us. The entire time you see Max in the clip above, he’s telling Dyer to back off. Had Max been a person, he’d have been saying, “Hey, get out of my face. If you don’t get out of my face, I’m going to knock your block off. Listen, I’m warning you, lady, get out of my face. Alright, you asked for it.”
Max’s ears were laying back flat on his head. He was licking his lips repeatedly. He was trying to avoid eye contact with Dyer – which in dog language is a challenge to fight – but she kept pulling his face back towards her face. Her human words may have been saying, “You’re a gorgeous dog,” but in dog language, she was saying, “Hey, I’m in control here, buster” and Max was responding, “Leave me alone. Seriously, leave me alone right now.” Then she leaned in to kiss his nose. Max didn’t care that he was on TV or that Dyer was telling a story of heroic rescue. He just wanted O-U-T.
This was a tragic situation, and it’s not really Dyer’s fault. Yes, she broke every rule about approaching a strange dog and missed every signal Max was sending. But this is also one of the most common ways dog bites happen. I only hope that people who see her story take away a lesson about reading dog language and approaching a strange dog – and teach it to their children, who are often the recipient of bites just like this.
That’s where a finger can be pointed to Max’s owner, who ignored the dog’s signals. As a dog owner, it’s so important for you to understand what your dog is trying to communicate, and then act in the best interests of both the dog and the humans around you. While it might have been rude to ask Dyer to not approach the dog the way she was, it would have avoided a tragic bite. Better to insult the host than send her to the hospital. On Dyer’s Facebook page, one fan named Tamie said it best:
“I believe the owner should have protected you by being a student of his own dog’s body language, for all those saying you should have recognized the signs of the impending attack, so should have the owner, firstly and preventatively.”
But it’s really not Max’s fault – although he caused the damage. He clearly shared how he was feeling, and the humans around him ignored what he was saying. He didn’t turn on a dime, as some people have suggested. He was expressing his fear and anxiety all along, and his owner should have recognized his rising anxiety and found a way to get the dog out of there. What other choice did Max have but to bite? He’s an animal living in a human world; considering the way we approach dogs, it’s a credit to our canine friends that tragic situations like this don’t happen more often.