Avoid Mowing Madness
Be Smart & Safe - Don't Mow with your Dog in the Yard
This weekend, a client brought her dog in for exam, but tearfully described how her dog bit the landscaper mowing her yard. Despite the sign on her gate that said "Do not enter the yard without notifying me" the landscaper entered the yard unknown to the owner. While mowing the yard, the dog bit the landscaper in the leg. There were few details, yet I was not at all surprised that this dog would bite someone mowing the grass. For the dog, a loud noisy machine going back and forth in the yard is a monster to be chased and bitten to eliminated. I told the owner, her dog was acting like any normal dog would - to aggress against a threat that they could not get away from. I could not do any vaccination and she would follow all the rules of control on her dog as she always had. It was human misinterpretation of dog behavior and nature that led to the bite. After 30 plus years of veterinary practice I still scratch my head and wonder. Why????
What I am trying to understand is why someone would pursue mowing with a dog loose in the yard? I have seen it myself, people pushing or riding a mower with the dog laying in the yard. It makes me cringe for both the dog and the people mowing. Either the dog is going to get hurt, or the person mowing, or both. I will not go into the gory details of paws lacerated, semi amputated limbs or persons grabbed in the mowing scenario. Yes, this stuff happens and it can all be avoided if we stop and think. But people do not - so why?
I try to understand first, so here are some of my thoughts on why people would think it is not a problem to mow around a dog loose or on a chain in a yard:
"My dog just lays there when I mow" - So to the person mowing, the dog is calm and ignoring the mower. Okay, that is what it would look like from a human point of view. For some dogs, this may be true. They are conditioned (or used to) the sound and movement of the mower so it is just background noise. Many other dogs will suddenly jump up and chase the mower. These dogs are not ignoring the mower. They are watching the grinding, noisy, powerful machine go back and forth. They are trying to ignore it, but see the machine as a threat. As they watch the mower, they are increasing their focus and stare, activating the prey drive. The result - mower attack. For the dog, they hope to "kill" the mower or the person making that mower move around the yard.
"My dog barks, and jumps at the mower but he never gets near." They may think the dog just wants to play, yet the dog sees this mower as a threat. The loud, grinding sound is alarming and if the dog cannot get away from it then they will stare, preparing to attack. The quiet dog is watching the mower preparing to attack. The person pushing the mower is seen as a threat; even if they are the owner! So if the dog does not run at the blade area, they will bite at the legs of the person pushing the mower. I have had many dogs come in on emergency call with deep lacerations on the legs or feet from suddenly pouncing at the mower. I have also seen people continue to mow as a dog is jumping at a mower, because the dog will jump then retreat. It leads up to a big mess - either the person gets bitten or the dog gets injured.
There are other risks when mowing around your dog. Rocks and sticks can be thrown from the mower blades injuring your pet. Some dogs will keep moving from place to place and may become scared enough to duck under the fence or jump over it to get away. Now the dog may become injured or lost.
So, when you are out mowing the lawn, please put your dog up in the house or in some other sheltered area. This would prevent a multitude of animal and people injuries. Please be smart and safe.