Did you know that 77% of dog bites come from a family or friend’s dog? When most people think about dog bites, they imagine the bites are from a stray or a vicious dog, while this is not at all the reality. While proper training is highly important for dogs of all ages and sizes, and owners must be aware of their own dog’s vulnerabilities, triggers, and behavioral issues, good behavior goes both ways, especially when children are involved.
Even the most docile of pets will bite if provoked in the wrong way by a child.
So, how can we ensure this is not an issue and keep our kids and pets safe? Here are a few ways you can help keep both your kids and your dog safe and make animal-child relationships and interactions more positive.
How Bites Occur
Most people believe that dog bites happen out of nowhere. However, this has been proven by scientists and researchers to be a rare exception. The way these pet interactions occur –in this case, with a child–can play a critical role in keeping everyone safe. Even if your family does not have a dog, chances are your child will come into contact with a dog and having a basic understanding of why dog bites occur is crucial to preventing them from happening.
What dog bites typically boil down to is simple: Bites usually happen when there is a miscommunication between the child and the dog.
The Dog’s Mind
Dogs, like all pets, are animals. Although they may look cute and cuddly on the outside, they are still primal creatures when put in situations they are not comfortable in. Children often run up to a dog because of its inviting nature, but many are not yet able to read dog body language properly and there’s miscommunication. For example, dogs baring their teeth, lowering their growl, and showing a stiff posture can equal trouble for an unknowing, friendly and enthusiastic toddler.
Active supervision is always required when pets and children are together, and we should never leave children alone and unsupervised with a dog or any other animal.
Second, it is imperative to educate children about interacting with pets and making sure that they are respectful, gentle, and know the rules of engagement.
Preventing a Disaster by Teaching Children
If you are a new dog owner or parent and don’t know where to start when it comes to teaching your children about interacting with dogs, here are 10 rules that can lower the risk of bites when encountering a dog:
- Always ask the owner first if it is OK to approach and/or pet the dog
- Let the dog see and sniff your child before allowing your child to pet it, so that the dog can establish that the child is not a threat
- Never let your child run away from the dog–this invites the dog to chase after the child and may also ignite a dog’s prey drive
- If an unfamiliar dog approaches your child, teach them to stand still or back away slowly, without making eye contact
- Never let your child squeeze a dog, jump on a dog, or try to climb on top of them
- Never let your child pull a dog’s ears, tail, or scream or make loud noises at them
- Don’t let your child bother dogs when they’re eating or sleeping
- Don’t let your child take toys or treats away from dogs, or play tug of war with them
- Don’t let your child feed dogs treats with their fingers; teach them to put the treat in the palm of your hand and offer the treat to the dog with an open palm
- Lastly, never let your child approach a dog so as to back the pet into a corner or crowd it against a wall
When to Get a Trainer for Your Dog
If you are a dog owner, and realize that your dog is showing anxious or aggressive behaviors towards your child or other children, it’s time to get professional help. A certified dog trainer can assess what behaviors your pet is exhibiting and how the child or children interact with the dog and help address these issues to correct the behaviors before they escalate to a bite.
Don’t know where to start? If you’re unsure of where to take your dog for training, you can always ask your dog’s veterinarian and make sure the trainer has the professional qualifications required to do their job. You can also take the opportunity to have your pet checked by your vet for any underlying medical issues that might be causing your pet to behave with anxiety or aggression. Even if training seems expensive, being a responsible dog owner will save you in the long run. Some dog bite incidents can be serious, not to mention expensive if there is a lawsuit involved. It is so much better to be safe than sorry!
Spread the Word
Overall, dog bites in children rarely occur out of the blue. Teaching your child how to properly approach a dog and how to communicate with the dog throughout the entire interaction is imperative for their safety and that of the animal. By following the 10 preventive rules correctly, you can eliminate or reduce the risk of having a bite incident. The goal is to ensure your dog always feels safe around your kids, and that your kids are always safe around all dogs.
It’s so important to spread the word about keeping kids and pets safe and we can all do our part. Too often dogs are put at risk for bites that were unnecessarily provoked and which can end up costing them their lives. Share the knowledge and educate others about how they can help protect their children and prevent dog bites. Everyone will be happier for it!