Preventing Dog Bites in Children

Dogs are amazing animals. They protect our homes, fetch our newspapers, and comfort our spirits. Through the eyes of pet owners, dogs are loving and gentle creatures. That is why when dogs bite, pet owners are shocked and come to the conclusion that they now have an aggressive animal – but that is not always the case. To prevent dog bites, especially in children, owners need to understand what motivates a dog to bite and how can this action be prevented and, most importantly, how prevention can be communicated to children, who are the number one victims of dog bites per year.
Why do dogs bite?
Any breed, any size, any gender of dog might bite. One essential point to remember is dogs do not always bite because they are aggressive. Dogs can bite for a number of reasons. Even the nicest, most well-trained dog may snap if it is startled, scared, threatened, agitated, angry, or hungry[1]. Dogs may also bite for other reasons, such as being sick or injured. In regards to children, the vast majority of dog bites that occur in children are from dogs that are familiar with the child. Therefore, a dog may bite if it is provoked by a child who, for example, pulls its tail, fur, or ears[2].
How do they warn us?
A dog always gives warning signs before a bite occurs, but more than often these signs are very subtle and may be missed by many people. A dog may appear to tolerate being repeatedly mishandled by a child and one day bites, surprising everyone! But in some cases, the warning have gone on for months (or even years!) before the dog finally loses its tolerance and bites[3]. This is the reason it is important to educate children and pet owners on looking out for these warning signs. It is also important for all pet owners to supervise their dogs around children, and vice versa.
Tops Warning Signs:
  • The dog gets up and moves away from the child.collie_half_moon.jpg
  • 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 (see photo at right).
  • 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.

Courtesy of Doggone Safe

What should I teach my child?
When teaching children about dog bite prevention and safety – keep it simple. Educate children on pets, in general, not just how to avoid being bitten. Discuss animals, how we relate to them, and the role of animals in your family[4]. However, stress the importance of respecting dogs and avoiding bites by following these essential tips: 
  • Confidently and quietly walk away if confronted by an aggressive dog.
  • Don’t ever pet a dog without asking first — even if it’s a dog you know, or a dog that’s seemed friendly toward you before.
  • Avoid unknown dogs.
  • Tell children to leave the dog alone when it’s asleep or eating
  • Teach kids never to tease dogs by taking their toys, food or treats, or by pretending to hit or kick.
  • Teach kids to never pull a dog’s ears or tail, climb on or try to ride dogs.


For more tips, visit the ASPCA’s guide on ‘Teaching Your Dog How to Behave Around Children‘.