When you love dogs, it’s heartwarming to see your kids grow up with a beloved family dog of their own. For some families, the dog is just another son or daughter. We must remember however, that dogs are animals, and all of them, even the sweetest, most tolerant ones, will bite if they feel scared.
A dog bite, even when it’s just a nip, can cause a lifelong fear of dogs. At their worst, dog attacks can be fatal to children. Mild to severe dog bites can lead to the dog being euthanized.
Fortunately, dog bites are usually preventable. By respecting our dogs’ needs and teaching our children to be gentle, kids and dogs can grow up to be best friends with no bite incidents.
Why Dogs Bite Kids
Children love to hug and kiss their family members, and do not understand that dogs can be startled when kids approach them from behind, run up to them, squeeze their neck and get up in their face. We cannot expect young children to fully understand why their displays of affection are not always welcome.
Kids also find it difficult to read a dog’s body language. It’s easier for us to identify a strained facial expression, pinned ears and avoidance of eye contact.
Statistics show 32% of dog bite that happen to children cause trauma to the head, face and neck. It’s not uncommon for it to be a dog that the parents believe to be “good with kids.” Even if your dog normally tolerates hugs and kisses, there may be times when they are tired or in pain – causing them to snap.
The Myth Of The Nanny Dog
It’s true that pitbull-type dogs have an undeserved bad reputation. It’s not true that they have jaws that lock, or that their bite force is extraordinarily powerful. However, it’s crucial that you understand that they are not nanny dogs. In the past few years, a myth has circulated through articles and memes claiming that Staffordshire Terriers were once used as “nanny dogs” in 19th century England. There’s no evidence that this is true.
While any dog can snap at a child, large, powerful dogs can do more damage in a single bite. That said, a small terrier mix once killed a three-week-old baby. Even small dogs can inflict a lot of damage in a split-second.
There’s no such thing as a “nanny dog”. No dog should be left alone with a child, or forced to tolerate tail pulling, screaming or grabbing. Every child is different. Some could be trusted to be alone with a dog by the time they are ten years old; other kids will take even longer to reliably respect a dog.
Rules Every Kid Should Know
- Never approach a dog while they are eating. Even if a dog has shown no signs of resource guarding, your kids should be taught to give all animals space while they eat.
- Never approach a dog while they are sleeping. Dogs can snap if startled awake.
- No hugging or kissing. Pet the dog on their back and chest, not on the head.
- Never lean on or ride the dog. Dogs have suffered fatal back injuries after children have been allowed to ride on them like a horse.
- Do not play games that encourage nipping or chasing. Teach your kids to play with toys to keep the dog from nipping at their hands during play. Kids should not grab a toy while the dog is playing with it.
- Always ask before petting a stranger’s dog. Never approach a stray dog, and stay away from chained dogs as they tend to lash out aggressively because they may feel cornered and unable to escape.
- No screaming or running around the dog. Some dogs will chase and knock down children that behave like squealing creatures of prey. Instruct your kids to stop, stand still and “be a tree” if they’re scared of a dog or being chased.
- Do not attempt to punish the dog. Teach your kids to find an adult if the dog is eating something harmful, stealing their toys or otherwise “misbehaving”.
- Learn dog body language, and walk away if the dog growls or seems fearful. There are some great resources for this at DoggoneSafe.com.
Finding The Right Dog For Your Family
A dog with a friendly, easy-going temperament is a good match for you and your kids. Remember, a dog’s temperament develops through genetics, past experiences and training. Be extra wary of shelter dogs that may have been abused, or may have a genetic predisposition to being fearful of children. It’s best to adopt a puppy that you can socialize and teach to play safely with your children, or an adult dog that has a history of being a good family dog.
Unfortunately, not every dog can be trained to be good with your kids. Dogs with resource guarding issues, those that jump on kids or otherwise have harmful habits can often be trained, but training and management can take a while. There’s no “quick fix” that will make your dog a perfect citizen overnight. If your dog poses a danger to your family, you’ll have to be willing to put your human kids first.
Get Your Kids Involved In Dog Training
Dog training is a wonderful way for your kid to learn about your dog’s body language and teach them to interact without kissing and hugging. It can even become a lifelong passion. Contact Healthy Houndz today to find out how we can help you and your family set your dog up for success.