My Dog Would Never Bite!

You might think that…but it’s probably not true.

My sister and her husband’s dog, Bailey, was a calm, very well-behaved dog. Not the type of dog you’d ever expect to bite someone. But one day while he was left alone for just a minute with their 1 year old daughter, he bit her face. As a baby who didn’t know any better, she probably got in his face and he got scared and reacted in the only way he knew how. The bite was fairly minor and no real damage was done – except that they didn’t feel that they could keep Bailey in their house anymore (he went to live with someone else). It was a sad, very difficult situation for my sister and her husband, and something that I wouldn’t want anyone to have to go through.

I’ve seen my dog Hunter be pushed around and hugged by small children, but I always try to intervene. Although I do think it is unlikely based on his nature that Hunter would bite, I can’t say it’s impossible. If a dog feels frightened, you can’t be sure how he or she will react. It is imperative, no matter how friendly you think your dog is, to monitor babies and dogs closely. And as children around your dog get older, to teach them the proper way to approach dogs.

This week is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, so I’ve been seeing a lot of articles on how to prevent dog bites. One interesting thing I just read is that Ohio has the second highest number, 1,009, of homeowners insurance liability claims related to dog bites* (California has the highest at 1,867), so it seems some education is needed here.

Since most dog bites involve children, educating them about proper interactions with dogs is probably one of the most important keys to preventing dog bites. State Farm and Victoria Stilwell put together a quiz asking children ages 5-9 about common dog behaviors to see what they understood about dog body language. The quiz, probably not surprisingly to many of us, uncovered that children have a lot to learn about interacting with dogs.**

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Image courtesy of State Farm and Victoria Stilwell

Based on how often children on the street run up to my dogs and want to pet them, this does not surprise me. I often have to quickly tell them that Roscoe does not want to be pet (I think he will definitely bite), but if he was a more aggressive dog it would probably be too late. It’s important for kids to be aware that even cute little dogs can bite and that very few dogs like to have hands near their face or be approached in a hyper manner. Some other things to teach children about interacting with dogs:

  • Most dogs do not like to be hugged or kissed. In general, you should avoid putting your hands or face near a dog’s face you don’t know
  • Children should never approach a dog who is eating, since some dogs are food aggressive
  • Don’t approach a dog in an enclosed area or put your hands on the other side of the fence or in an enclosed area a dog is in

If you have a child in your life that needs to learn proper behavior around dogs, the American Veterinary Medical Association’s “spokesdog” Jimmy the Dog put together this video (it’s a little cheesy, but kids like this kind of stuff right?) you may want to show them:

Have you talked to the children in your life about the proper way to interact with a dog?

 

*Source: Insurance Information Institute – http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/dog-bites-accounted-for-more-than-one-third-of-all-homeowners-liability-pay-outs-last-year-as-cost-per-claim-soars-300083383.html

**Source: Victoria Stilwell and State Farm – http://www.multivu.com/players/English/72928517-state-farm-dog-bite-prevention/