As part of Dog Bite Prevention Week, we took a look at some important tips to keep in mind when managing your own dog and when approaching unknown dogs. Today we'd like to delve a bit further into the most talked-about issues surrounding dog bites: children.
According to the AVMA, young children are by far the most common dog bite victims and most dog bites occur while they are interacting with dogs that are familiar to them. To better understand some of the reasons a dog may bite a young child, we've turned to Doggone Safe - a non-profit organization dedicated to dog bite prevention and dog bite victim support. They are a fantastic resource and they've put together an excellent set of things to keep in mind:
Why Dogs Bite Children
- The dog is protecting a possession, food or water dish or puppies.
- The dog is protecting a resting place.
- The dog is protecting its owner or the owner's property.
- The child has done something to provoke or frighten the dog (e.g., hugging the dog, moving into the dog's space, leaning or stepping over the dog, trying to take something from the dog).
- The dog is old and grumpy and having a bad day and has no patience for the actions of a child.
- The dog is injured.
- The child has hurt or startled it by stepping on it, poking it or pulling its fur, tail or ears.
- The dog has not learned bite inhibition and bites hard by accident when the child offers food or a toy to the dog.
- The child and dog are engaging in rough play and the dog gets overly excited.
- The dog views the child as a prey item because the child is running and/or screaming near the dog or riding a bicycle or otherwise moving past the dog.
How Dogs Warn Children They Might Bite
- The dog gets up and moves away from the child.
- The dog turns his head away from the child.
- The dog looks at you with a pleading expression.
- You can see the "whites" of the dogs eyes, in a half moon shape.
- The dog yawns while the child approaches or is interacting with him.
- The dog licks his chops while the child approaches or is interacting with him.
- The dog suddenly starts scratching, biting or licking himself.
- The dog does a big "wet dog shake" after the child stops touching him.
Doggone Safe provides several visual examples that illustrate the difference between happy, calm dogs and dogs that are sending warning signals. Highly recommended visuals to look at with your children to help them (and you!) better understand how to interact with dogs to stay safe.
Overall, we find that being aware of warning signals is vital to safety. It's so easy to assume that your dog or a friend's dog is enjoying your child's company or play, but things can quickly switch from light-hearted to more serious play and dogs are not always best at recognizing that shift in time...so it's up to us to be aware of these shifts at all times.