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Why Do Dogs Bite Kids

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Jeff Tinsley is the owner and behavior therapist at Sound Animals Dog Training. He specializes in rescue/shelter dogs, and behavior modification. His nearly 20 years of experience working with anxiety, fear, and aggression issues.

Why do dogs bite kids?

Number one victim of dog bites is kids. Why is that? Because children behave in ways that dogs do not understand. You can’t train every child how to interact with your dog, but you can train your dog on how to interact with children.


One of the biggest mistakes that we can make as dog owners is to assume that all parents have trained their kids how to properly behave around dogs. It is a common assumption, which can often lead to dangerous outcomes. Instead, we need to focus on training our dogs to be bulletproof around kids. You just cannot afford to assume that a child is going to know how to be around a dog. You have to make sure your dog is safe around children.

Click here for some tips from Jeff on how to teach your dog to like kids.

Keeping your dog safe when interacting with children:

If you plan on spending time with kids your dog may not be familiar with, make sure your dog knows that biting, mouthing and even jumping on children is not an option. Make sure your dog is always supervised when around children, especially those he may not know. Stop all unsafe interactions.

Educate your children. As a parent, even if you do not have a dog in your house, you need to teach your child about dogs. It is important to teach them to recognize different forms of body language. Instruct them on how to say hello to a dog and how to pet a dog the safe way. As most children get excited when they see animals, it is crucial to teach them not to run up to strange dogs or enter someone’s property if they have a strange dog, as well as what to do if a dog is chasing them.

Why are children the most common victims of dog bites?

Our friends at the Texas Veterinary Medical Association sent us an amazing write up about why dogs bite children. Founded in 1903, the Texas Veterinary Medical Association is a professional association composed of more than 3,700 veterinarians committed to protecting public health, promoting high educational, ethical and moral standards within the veterinary profession and educating the public about animal health and its relationship to human health. For more information, call 512/452-4224 or visit www.tvma.org.

Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA) would like to emphasize how education and awareness are the keys to preventing many, if not most, dog bites. An estimated 4.5 million dog bites are reported each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 20 percent of these incidents require emergency medical care. At least half of the victims who require medical attention are children. Pet owners can take preventative measures to decrease the number of dog bites, from teaching children how to avoid dog bites to properly training and socializing pets.

In terms of educating children on preventing dog bites, TVMA encourages parents to learn canine behavioral cues and teach their children the signs that a dog is uncomfortable. Signs to watch for include a dog lifting its lip, panting or yawning inappropriately, cowering, holding its breath, flattening its ears to its head, growling or snapping.

“Many dogs will give a warning or several warnings that they are uncomfortable and a person needs to back off,” said Lori Teller, DVM, DABVP, a past TVMA president who practices at Meyerland Animal Clinic in Houston. “People often miss these signs and think a dog bite occurred out of the blue.”

It’s best to teach children not to approach strange dogs; however, it’s not only strange dogs that bite. In fact, many dog bites occur during everyday activities and while children are interacting with familiar dogs. Even the gentlest dog can bite its own family member if it’s feeling frightened, distressed or in pain. Parents may consider supervising children’s interactions with dogs so they can intervene if the dog appears to be avoiding the child or displaying distressed behavioral cues. Aside from teaching children warning signs, dog owners also can lower the chances of dog bites by socializing their companion animals.

“Puppies need to be socialized to people of all ages, from crying babies to excitable children to teens listening to loud music to adults and senior citizens,” Dr. Teller said. “And certainly if your dog, whether a puppy or an adult, exhibits signs that he or she may bite someone, it’s imperative that you seek veterinary help immediately to address the problem.”