Dogs can be a wonderful and integral part of childhood: they get rid of the evidence when you don’t eat your vegetables, keep all of your secrets, and most importantly, love you completely and unconditionally!
If you are thinking about bringing a dog into your home with children, you need to make sure the new dog, your family, and your home are all adequately prepared for the introduction. Even if your family isn’t ready to adopt a dog of your own, teaching your children how to interact with every dog they meet is key to preventing any incidents of biting from happening.
Why Do Dogs Bite?
A dog bite out of the blue is exceptionally rare. Usually, even if the owner didn’t notice them, there are signs that a dog may be in danger of biting. These are extremely important to recognize when there are children in the home. So, why do dogs bite, and what are the warning signs?
Fear – Dogs, especially adopted adult dogs, may be easily startled or frightened. You may notice your new dog getting up and moving away from your child, or turning their head away from the child. This is usually because the dog is nervous or frightened by the child. Other signs are not so obvious, such as yawning when the child comes to play with the dog, wide eyes, or shaking (either trembling, or shaking like they just got a bath). If you notice any of these signs, separate the dog and your child immediately, and allow your dog to calm down before attempting another introduction.
Pain – Dogs can bite out of reaction to pain. You may notice that your dog gets snappy when trimming their nails, or if they have an injury. Children are often bitten when they pull on dog’s tails, ears, or fur, or when they poke dog’s eyes. Sometimes they hit dogs when they are trying to pet them. Make sure your child is able to interact gently with your dog, without pulling on body parts.
To Protect – Dogs can become protective over not just people, but also toys, food, places (such as their yard, crate or bed), and other animals, especially their own puppies. If you notice your dog guarding certain items, places, or people, remove them when introducing your new dog to your child. It is advisable to have them meet in a neutral place, such as a new park. Never have young children unsupervised around dogs with young puppies, or when they are eating, or playing with their toys.
During Play – Sometimes dogs will nip and bite when they are playing, especially when they are young. Be sure to warn your child not to roughhouse with your dog, and if you notice the dog getting excited and wanting to chew and play, try to calm it down before continuing to let them around children. Taking your dog on a walk or run before interacting with children allows it to burn off excess energy, allowing the experience to be more calm. Never allow your child to trap or corner a dog, and allow the dog a path to leave if it becomes uncomfortable. A dog that is tied up or otherwise unable to “escape” may resort to biting.
Illness – Aggression can happen because of a genetic disorder, such as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Disorder (also known as CCDD, which is similar to Alzheimer’s in humans)If your dog is aggressive without a clear “trigger” take them to a veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical issues
How to prevent biting incidents
Remove triggers – Any known triggers, such as certain toys, food, or people, should be removed before the child and dog are allowed to interact. If you make the environment as calm as possible, the chances of a bite are much lower