9 Simple Tips For Teaching Dog Bite Prevention to Kids
I don’t remember being taught about dog bite prevention. I’m sure my parents taught me not to pull on my dogs tail, and I’m sure they told me not to ride her like a pony. And I think if I were standing on the dog to reach the sink they’d have told me to get off (yes, I’m taking about the Sarah Palin video).
Yet like many others I don’t remember those lessons. What I do remember is the moment I learned to respect dogs, the moment I got bitten.
How I Learned to Respect Dogs – The Mindy Way
I grew up with an awesome mutt named Mindy. She was a Poodle mix, and for the first 13 years of my life she was my best friend. She was fun, and she was loyal. She loved nothing more than playing a good old game of tug of war with one of her prized “blankies.”
Mindy and I were inseparable. I would climb all over that dog and she’d either tolerate it or move away. I’d hug her and grab her legs and she’d just sit there. That dog had patience.
As children do I continued to test the limits. Teasing, poking, pulling. She took it like a saint, until the day I pulled her tail one too many times.
It happened so quickly – I was in complete shock. After pulling her tail for the 7th or 8th time she finally reached around, let out a growl, and bit my hand. It didn’t break the skin, and it didn’t even hurt. But her teeth made contact with my hand – and that was scary enough.
From that moment on I had a new found respect for Mindy. Before that nip I had little regard for her feelings, she was just another play thing.
She taught me something valuable that day. She wasn’t just my plaything after all. She could feel pain and frustration, just like me.
Lesson learned Mindy, lesson learned.
The vast majority of victims were bitten by a dog that they knew, not a stray dog roaming the streets. Dog bites account for 15% of home-owners insurance claims, totaling $317.2 million in 2005, at an average of $21,200 per claim. – UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine
The Way Children Approach My Dog Scares Me
When Laika and I go out to the park there’s one thing that I dread most – meeting children. Encountering small yappy dogs isn’t fun either, but it doesn’t fill me with the same fear that the sight of children do.
Don’t get me wrong, I love children.
What I don’t love is how children act around strange dogs. Children are drawn to Laika (I think it’s the big ears), and many children are amazed to be meeting a “police dog” in person.
Well, no, Laika isn’t a police dog, though I’m glad you recognize the breed, and it’s nice to know you appreciate police dogs. But if you do happen to meet a real police dog one day you might want to reconsider your approach. Charging at them while squealing loudly isn’t the typical greeting for a police dog.
Occasionally we meet well behaved children, ones that have either been raised with dogs or taught how to approach them. But often times this isn’t the case at all. They run, they scream, they grab her face, all within a matter of seconds. I don’t blame them, they’re kids. Meeting dogs was always exciting when I was young.
When I was a kid I didn’t know that running and screaming causes a great deal of excitement and arousal in dogs. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as dog bite prevention until my dog taught me it herself.
Getting bitten by a dog is the fifth most frequent cause of visits to emergency rooms caused by activities common among children. – American Medical Association
The Problem With Trying to Manage the Unpredictable
It’s scary for me when children run at my dog, poke her, hug her, and grab her tail. I know my dog, but I don’t know her that well. I don’t think she’ll ever bite a child, but how can anyone know for sure?
You can be an expert in dog body language and still make mistakes. Things can happen in an instant. Most dog bites come with a bit of warning, yet we can’t guarantee that we’ll always see the signs.
Nearly 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, half of these are children. I don’t want a child to get bitten, and I certainly don’t want it to be from my dog.
What Happens If My Dog Bites Someone?
Laika is claimed on my home owners insurance. She’s listed as a Shepherd mix which means I have to pay extra just to own her. When I bought my home I hadn’t yet done my dog dna test, and I don’t plan on updating them with those results. It’s obvious she’s a Shepherd mix so we’re going to leave it at that.
Dog bite liability laws are complex, and they vary by state, but there are a few commonalities. If my dog bites someone on my property I probably wouldn’t be taken to criminal court. But my dog would always be labeled dangerous. This can change if I lived somewhere with breed specific legislation – which the town right next to us has.
If they were to find out what extra breeds my dog has (according to one dna test) I wouldn’t be getting my dog back.
If the bite were to cause any sort of injury I’d likely be taken to civil court for damages. My dog might be quarantined for a period; if the injury was minor and it’s a first offense my dog will likely be returned.
I understand this – and I know why these laws are in place. I’m completely fine with someone being compensated (reasonably) for medical expenses due to a dog bite.
More than half the states make dog owners liable if their dogs cause injury, whether or not the owner had reason to think the dog was dangerous. – NOLO
Dog Bites Happen, and It’s Always a Possibility
I don’t see Laika biting anyone, but it’s always a possibility. Every time a child runs up to her with their arms flailing my stomach sinks. I become a nervous wreck. I don’t know how to react in all situations, and neither does my dog.
I can try to control the situation, but the situation also depends on the dog and child involved.
If she ever decides to respond to the yelling, poking, or grabbing by biting I’ve got a dangerous dog on my hands. A dangerous dog that happens to be a Shepherd mix. If we lived one town over she’d be banned due to one of the other breeds in her ancestry.
Nearly 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, half of these are children. One in five dog bites results in injuries serious enough to require medical attention. – CDC
The trend in prevention of dog bites continues to shift in favor improved ownership and husbandry practices, better understanding of dog behavior, education of parents and children regarding safety around dogs, and consistent enforcement of dangerous dog/reckless owner ordinances in communities. – Canine Research Center
The Importance of Teaching Dog Bite Prevention to Kids
The National Canine Research Center found that responsible pet ownership is the biggest factor in preventing dog bites. Us dog owners really need to step it up and make sure our dogs are well trained, socialized, and under control.
While dog owners carry most of the blame for dog bites we should also be teaching some basic dog bite prevention tips to our children.
There’s a lot of great programs out there that advocate for teaching dog bite prevention to children. It’s simple and effective. Not all children are raised around dogs, which for many of us was the way we learned to respect animals.
Parents are busy teaching their children a million lessons – dog bite prevention gets overlooked. It’s certainly not something I thought about until I saw how some children react around my dog.
The Basics of Teaching Dog Bite Prevention To Kids
While we can’t predict every encounter our children will have with strange dogs we can set a few simple guidelines for them to follow. These 9 basic tips are the foundation of dog bite prevention for children and adults alike.
- Ask permission before petting a strange dog. Always ask the dogs owner first if you can pet him.
- Set boundaries. Don’t interact with dogs when they’re eating, playing with a toy, caring for puppies, or sleeping.
- Be a tree. Dogs are excited by movement and noise. If you’re approached by a strange dog stay still. Running around or making loud noises will likely excite the dog even more.
- Never climb into a dogs yard. Don’t climb a fence to enter a dog’s yard.
- Don’t hug, poke, or grab a dog. When petting a dog be calm and gentle, avoid hugging them and getting close to their face.
- Don’t pull on a dogs ears, fur, or tail. Be gentle and polite with dogs, some dogs won’t tolerate being poked and pulled on.
- Don’t climb on dogs. Respect a dogs space, don’t climb on their back or step on them.
- Don’t pet dogs behind fences or in cars. Avoid reaching out to pet any dog that’s contained behind a fence or in a car.
- Don’t approach loose dogs. When you see a loose dog and no owner in sight don’t approach or try to catch him.
Canine Body Language – Signs of Distress
Knowing a dog’s basic body language signals can help identify potential problems before they arise. Dogs can bite out of frustration or fear, both usually come with a fair share of warning signs. These are the most common signs of an uncomfortable dog:
- Raised fur on the back
- Showing teeth
- Lip licking
- Tail tucked between the legs
- Looking all around in different directions
You can grab this free poster from Sophia Yin’s website. It’s a wonderful illustration on the body language of fear, and an easy way to teach dog bite prevention to kids.
Resources For Teaching Dog Bite Prevention to Kids
There’s a ton of great resources out there teaching dog bite prevention to kids, from printable posters to quick tip sheets. We can help protect our children by discussing with them the proper way to act around dogs.
- Doggone Safe – Site dedicated to preventing dog bites through education
- Teaching Children to Respect Dogs – Canadian Child Care Federation
- How Kids Should & Should Not Interact with Dogs – Great article by Dr. Sophia Yin
- My Dog Bit my Child – Lola the Pitty shares the importance of dog bite prevention
- Dog Bite Prevention – Victoria Stillwell’s article on preventing dog bites
- Preventing Dog Bites – Patricia Mcconnell’s great article on preventing dog bites
We can do our best to teach our dogs to behave well around children, but accidents will happen. Let’s help protect our kids by teaching them to respect animals before they learn it the way I did – with a bite.