Behavior Tip of the Month
Preventing Dog Bites
My son loves dogs. He put his finger through a fence to pet a dog and was bitten. How can I prevent dog bites?
Most children who have dogs at home wrongly believe that all dogs are friendly and will enjoy being petted by strangers. As noted dog trainer Brian Kilcommons writes in his book, Child-Proofing Your Dog, "Dogs are great. They love us, protect us, play with us, and are our friends. But just like people, not every dog is friendly and not every dog likes kids."
To prevent your child from being bit, make sure he or she understands the importance of following these rules regarding unfamiliar dogs.
"If the owner is present, always get permission to pet the dog."
It's very scary for some dogs to have people running toward them with flailing hands. They may be unaccustomed to children, costumes (especially around Halloween), people in uniforms, etc. and can react with fearful aggression. We need to teach our children to ask the owner's permission before they pet the dog. To avoid the dog becoming fearful, pet the chest area, not the top of the head.
Rule # 2
"If the owner is not present, do not approach the dog."
This is especially true if the dog is in a car, behind a fence or tied up. Dogs consider their owner's property to be their territory. We want them to be watchdogs and protect our homes from danger. A dog may think your child is a burglar coming to hurt his human "pack".
Rule # 3
"Don't stand over, grab, hug, reach down or try to kiss a strange dog."
People don't like other people invading their space and neither do dogs. They can become fearful when crowded. They may feel cornered and try to defend themselves. Don't put your face close to an unfamiliar dog.
"Let the dog approach you --- don't chase an unknown dog or run away from him".
If a stranger runs toward us, we'd probably be scared. Dogs can be scared of unknown people too, especially people making fast movements. When you run away from a dog, his instinct tells him to chase you. Move slowly and a dog won't be as likely to chase you.
"Don't stare at a dog."
Dogs and people consider staring a threat. Look over the dog's head or to the side of him.
"Speak quietly near dogs and don't scream or shout."
Loud sounds can cause fear or over stimulation. Either of these may cause dogs to become nippy or aggressive. Calm dogs require calm humans.
"Don't approach a growling, barking dog or one who is backing away from you."
As Bardi McLennan says in her book, Dogs and Kids, "Don't reach out from a standing position to pet a dog that seems shy or frightened. Seemingly sweet shy dogs are capable of delivering nasty nips." The dog is telling you in his language that he doesn't want to play with you. Leave him alone.
Most dogs are friendly and like being petted by polite children. However, it is important for kids and their parents to be able to identify and avoid pets who aren't gentle. In addition, even potentially friendly dogs can be made aggressive by behavior which induces fear or over stimulation.
You can discuss the rules in this article but younger children may not understand.
Role playing is a good teaching technique with younger children. Have the adult act the part of the child in each of the situations above. The child can be the dog and you can teach him how a scared dog would act. He'll love to pretend to nip you. Then switch roles. If your child plays it correctly, he can receive a treat or a privilege. If he doesn't, then the adult pretends to nip him.
Kids love play acting. The "strange doggie game" can help them understand why it is so important to follow these Rules when confronting unknown dogs.
Hopefully, these words to the dog-wise will be sufficient and we can keep our kids and dogs safe and sound.
Have a purrfect day!
Best Friend Behavior Counseling and Training
San Diego, Ca.
"Positively teaching pets and their people since 1977"
Do you have a question for Carole? You can reach her at this email address - firstname.lastname@example.org Perhaps she will use it in an upcoming article on this Web site.
The information contained on this site is in no way intended to replace that of proper veterinary advice, diagnosis or treatment.
It is meant to provide resource, so that we can better understand canine health related issues.