School is out and summertime is a great time for the kids and the dogs to interact. It’s fun time for both the humans and the canines, but it is also a time to remind the kids that any dog, given the right—or wrong–circumstances, can bite. Even the easiest going dog may react when cornered by a child who screams, moves erratically, or suddenly grabs him. Each year almost a million kids visit the emergency room for treatment of a dog bite, and oftentimes, the culprit is a dog that the child knows, and more often than not, it is the behavior of the child that triggers the bite. Toddlers grab, hold, tug, poke and yank; they squeal as they crawl around the floor, and dogs simply do not understand this behavior. Dogs are dogs; they do not bite out of the blue, or launch into an assault without provocation, but humans often do not recognize the dog’s anxiety. Children should ALWAYS be supervised when in the company of a dog. A dog has few ways of protesting unwanted attention. He can try to move away, and once he has done this, his only alternative is a bark, growl, or nip. If you see your dog retreating from a child, immediately stop the child from bothering the dog. Teach your children that animals are to be treated kindly and gently, show them how to properly handle a dog, and do not allow hitting, chasing, teasing or other harassment.
Guess where most bites occur? Right in our homes or the homes of friends. Dogs bite because they don’t want you near them, or an area they may be “protecting.” Be it fear or whatever reason, she wants to put distance between herself and you. If you have small children it is important to create a “safe haven” for your dog, so that when he does not want to be bothered with the child, he can escape to his safe place where the child is not allowed. If a dog is eating, playing with a toy, or has a litter of puppies, the children should leave her alone. Dogs tend to be protective of their food and toys, and bothering an eating or playing dog is one of the major reasons kids get bitten by their family dog. When excitement levels are high, such as when they are playing with a toy, they are also more likely to accidentally bite. A young child’s first reaction to being nipped or mouthed by a dog is to push the pup away, and this will be interpreted by the dog as play and will probably cause him to nip and mouth even more.
Sometimes people think it is cute to tease the dogs by pretending to beat up another human, or by playing rough, aggressive games, and these activities encourage out-of-control behavior, grabbing, lunging and competition with you, which are not behaviors you want your dog to learn. Always encourage your kids (and adults) to treat the family pets with the respect they deserve, and do not allow “idiot games.”
If you routinely tie your dog outside, please reconsider. Tied dogs are frustrated dogs who tend to be hyper and testy, and a child entering the area where a dog is chained could be easily knocked down or bitten. If a neighbor ties a dog out, be sure your children to not go near those dogs. It is an accident waiting to happen. They should also be taught to never approach a strange dog, and even if they know a dog, they should always ask the caregiver for permission before they get near him.
Few things are worse than having your dog bite someone. It causes you, your dog and the victim extreme heartache, which reinforces the importance of providing necessary training to both the child and the dog to maintain positive interaction. Dogs are wonderful companions, and by acting responsibly, caregivers not only reduce dog bite injuries, but also enhance the relationship they have with their dog.