Recently I have come across several instances where people think, no expect, dogs act like humans. I had a client once who told me that they were going to train their two Min Pins, but they decided not to because the trainer they spoke to told them that dogs don't think like humans. "Oh no" they said "our dogs are part of our family". Well this can be completely true but the bottom line is they are critters...critters with teeth. You do them and you a huge disservice either refusing to accept this or not believing it.
I know of a family in my neighborhood who have two large Labs. They are sweet dogs and very well trained. They were however, not raised with small children. On the fourth of July the neighborhood had a block party. Somehow a three year old decided that the dogs dinner looked good to him and went for it. The dog snapped and a scratch appeared on the surprised childs face. Pandemonium ensued, the police were called and the neighborhood was evenly split. Some for dog, some for child. Now while I would never say it's good that the dog got his teeth anywhere near a child's face, I also have to question the wisdom of a parent allowing a small child to get near an eating dog. My theory on children and dogs is unless you have a dog raised from a puppy with the child, is to treat them all as if they might bite. Before the child has reason and logic, keep that child away from any unknown dog. When the child can understand and reason teach them him never to approach an unknown dog. NEVER.
The other instance was from a message board. A family moved to a new neighborhood and their Wheaten Terrier somehow got loose. In the cul de sac they moved to there was a three year wandering alone. The dog barked at this seemingly unknown critter (my dog does the same sometimes to small people. She seems to not understand short people) a teenage boy went to intervene and was nipped. No blood was drawn but again, not good. Another uproar and threats from the father to go after the dog with a baseball bat.
What I know for sure is that dogs aren't like people. They don't have logic and reason. They have reaction and instinct. You can never assume because it knows this little person, that it will be okay with that little person. Dogs generalization skills suck. Both of these situations seem to me to be a immediate reaction from the dogs. It may have gone like this...
Lab...Yummm food...not sure if this will ever happen again...eat fast...hey small thing trying to get food...protect food.
Wheaten... Loose, yipee...ohhh, new strange place...scary...small unfamiliar human type thing screaming...bark to scare screaming thing....larger human thing lunging at me...cornered...bite to protect.
I would never defend a vicious dog. I may suggest a behaviorist if the owner was motivated enough but mean is mean. Neither one of these situations had mean awful untrained dogs. Circumstances came together with not tragic but not good results. What I would suggest is for parents of small children keep a eye on their kids. I don't have kids and I don't think I intend to have them. I do have an eighteen month old buddy who plays with my Schnoodle. My Schnoodle is well trained and sweet. I am still right there when they interact and I do mean right there with my hands on the dog. The child is bigger than the dog and could inadvertently hurt the dog. If that happened I am not 100% sure she wouldn't bite out of fear or pain. I will not take the chance, ever.
Repeat after me... A dog is a critter A critter with teeth
Remember they aren't human, they have no reason or logic. That isn't a bad thing (contary to what my Min Pin client thinks)they don't hold grudges, talk back, talk behind your back, tell you you're gaining weight...I could go on and on