The days when a parent would ask their child what he or she did to “make the dog bite you” are long past! The assumption now is that the dog is always at fault when a bite occurs. Stories about children being mauled by dogs seem to be in the news almost daily. Despite the growing concern about dog bites, most dog owners are poorly educated about the reasons why dogs bite and what should be done to minimize the likelihood of their dog ever biting anyone.
The majority of dog bites occur in the dog’s home or yard, and most bites are to family members or visitors. Children are more than twice as likely as adults to be bitten, and boys are bitten more often than girls. A large percentage of bites can be attributed to the dogs not being properly socialized or trained, and very frequently, there is no adult supervision when children and dogs are together.
The following are a few examples of why dogs bite and what can be done to avoid these situations.
Scenario 1: The dog is protecting its territory from someone it perceives as an intruder.
Dogs that are chained often become territorial and are more likely to bite children and adults approaching them. Chaining also creates frustration in the dog, as he is able to see the intruder, but not reach them. Do not chain your dog. If you need to confine your dog to a kennel or crate, make sure that children know not to stick their fingers inside and the kennel or crate can be securely closed or locked so kids cannot try to get inside with the dog. Train your dog to exhibit acceptable good manners when visitors come to your home.
Scenario 2: The dog is guarding an object or food from someone who is trying to take it away.
Children should be taught to never try to take away an object or food from a dog. If you have a dog that growls or snaps when someone tries to take things away from him, consult with a professional trainer.
Scenario 3: The dog is fearful of being hurt or is in pain.
Dogs that have not been properly socialized are often fearful. Socialize your puppy or dog to anything or anyone you want him to be able to handle later on. Provide regular veterinary care for your dog to make sure any health problems are identified and to make sure he is not uncomfortable or in pain. Keep him well groomed so he doesn’t have tangles that pull or sore spots on his skin.
Scenario 4: The dog perceives the person as “prey.”
This reaction is frequently triggered by movement and/or sound. Many years of natural selection have enabled all canines, including our domestic dogs, to pick out the easiest target when hunting. Young, old, or weak animals are usually easier prey than adults. Children are often the victims of bites because their size and behavior can elicit this response in some dogs. Teach your children how to behave around dogs. If the family dog gets excited and rambunctious when playing with the kids, the supervising adult should call a time out so that children can be stopped from running and yelling, and the dog can be stopped from chasing.