Home > Dog Behavior, Pet Safety, Pet Videos > Video of child and dog demonstrate why understanding dog behavior is so important

Video of child and dog demonstrate why understanding dog behavior is so important

It seems children and dogs have been at the forefront of my mind lately. It could be because I have read several great blog posts on the subject lately, but I think it might also have something to do with a video I saw a few weeks ago that featured both a child and a dog.

A friend posted it on Facebook and expressed her concern about it. I watched it and was just as concerned. It is disturbing on so many levels… it involves a child and a dog (who does not seem to appreciate the child touching him), it demonstrates poor parenting and supervision of said child and dog, it involves the much maligned breed, a pitbull, and it is a potential dog bite or attack waiting to happen. That the video is still up is disturbing in and of itself.

I honestly debated sharing it on my blog because I knew it had the potential to create a lot of anger. But then I read a really interesting post this week that seemed to be a perfect way to tee up the conversation.

It was a blog post written by  Robin Bennett, a certified pet dog trainer (CPDT-KA). The post was titled “Why Supervising Dogs and Kids Doesn’t Work.” I absolutely encourage you to read it and then share it with everyone you know. Actually, I beg you to read it and share it. I think it is exactly what we should be telling parents who have both kids and dogs living together in the same house.

Robin hit the nail on the head. It’s not just about supervising a child with a dog, it’s about watching what the dog’s behavior is when a child is near, and then knowing what that behavior means and what to do about it. Parents need to know what their dog’s behavior means or they have no context in which to anticipate a bite or to stop it.

So in honor of that key point, I am going to break down the video I mentioned above to explain why it is so concerning and why any parent seeing this kind of behavior in their own home, should be deeply worried and should intervene immediately to stop it from ever happening again. I have linked to the video here.  I encourage you to watch it with a discerning eye and share anything you saw that I missed.

The video: Several interactions between a child and a dog (I chose to refer to the dog as “he”, but it could be a “she”)

The subjects: A young child, a pitbull type dog and two supervising adults (possibly the child’s mother and father)

Behavior of the child in the video:

  • Stands next to couch, stretches out arm, pulls both arms back and then grabs the dog’s back foot.
  • Pulls arm back, clutches hands together and laughs.
  • Reaches out again and grabs at the dog’s back feet, screams, pulls back slightly and then goes after the dog’s feet again.
  • Laughs and pulls arms back again, and clutches hands together again.
  • Reaches out and grabs the dog’s back foot again with one hand. Laughs.
  • Continues to hold onto dog’s back foot tightly and then pulls it towards her. Holds on and pulls harder before letting go.

Behavior of the dog: 

  • Laying in couch next to the supervising adult with one paw on the adult’s leg
  • Sees approaching child and turns head slight towards child. Lip licks. Could be a whale eye showing.
  • Turns fully towards child. Ears are back. Mouth is tight. Clearly worried and stressed.
  • Lunges towards child’s hand as it reaches for his leg. Encloses child’s right hand completely in his mouth. Lets go and puts mouth on left hand which is touching his foot.
  • Pulls body closer together and scoots towards the supervising adult.
  • Reaches/Lunges out over the edge of the couch to grab the child’s right arm before it can come over the couch fully. Encloses mouth around the child’s right arm. Mouths the child’s right hand. Lip licks.
  • Mouth drawn tight. lunges again for child’s out-stretched right hand. Lets go and grabs child’s left hand which now has the dog’s foot. Mouths the child’s left hand. Lip licks. (Dog is now leaning forward with front legs hanging over the front of the couch. Ears are far back on his head.)
  • Dog lets go of hand and physically turns head and body away from the child. Brow is furrowed. Ears are back.
  • Lunges at child’s hand again as it grabs his leg. Mouths child’s hand. Lip lick as child grabs his foot and pulls on it.
  • Hard eyes. Possible whale eye. Pulls lips back to show teeth (does this a couple of times). Lip licks again. Shows more of his teeth.
  • Video stops.

What the dog’s behavior means:

The combination of lip licking, furrowed brows, turning away from the child, leaning against the woman or mother, and mouthing the child’s hands and arms are all calming signals and indicate the dog is stressed. This dog was extremely uncomfortable with the child grabbing at him and was trying to communicate this through the body signals.

The wrinkled nose and mouth, and bared teeth looked like a snarl to me, but there was also a lip lick in there so I wonder about a possible submissive grin. Regardless, it was most definitely a warning sign to the child (and the adults) that the dog was extremely uncomfortable. He was definitely being pushed past his comfort zone and could have bitten the child. Maybe he did bite the child.  Maybe that’s why the video stopped. This was a situation that was completely avoidable, but the supervising adults had to know what to look for in order to see it clearly. I suspect they had no idea that this was an extremely dangerous situation until they saw the snarl. I hope to god they took action then and didn’t wait for a bite to occur.

I welcome your own observations on the behaviors you saw in the video and on Robin’s post about why supervising is not enough. What did you see? What stood out to you about Robin’s post? Did I miss anything in the dog’s behavior? 

I hope that this video motivates parents to become more knowledgeable about dog behavior. To help, I have provided a few links below. They are worth reviewing if you have a child and a dog in your house.

Understanding Animal Behavior & Communication

A Canine Stress Dictionary

Book: On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas

The Family Dog: Dog Training for the Whole Family (My thanks to Pamela from Something Wagging This Way Comes for sharing this one on her blog. They have a great video you can share with children to help them understand dog behavior.)

  1. August 26, 2013 at 12:38 AM

    I think that dog was screaming…Leave me alone! Not to mention there is food nearby AND seems to sitting with his favorite buddy. The last bit with the wrinkled nose was a big scare and may be why it cuts off right there. At least the dog was trying to be nice with his bite on the child’s hands. I don’t know. Very scary video.

  2. August 26, 2013 at 6:17 AM

    The video made me mad that the parents just sit there and let the child continue to tease the dog! It obviously is not the first time the child has done this, you can see it all over the dog when she approaches. He knows what is coming. If a bite did not occur at the end of the video, It will happen eventually.
    I feel bad for that dog!

  3. August 26, 2013 at 7:09 AM

    I didn’t watch the video, but I have seen my fair share of child-dog interactions that bothered me. Most recently I watched a 4 year old playing with a dog he didn’t know. The dog was not neutered. I was concerned and talked to the child about appropriate ways to interact with dogs. The parent appeared oblivious to the situation.

    I also have a beef with some dog parks that don’t police children in the park. Where we used to live the park didn’t allow children young children in the park, but it was regularly violated.

  4. August 26, 2013 at 7:58 AM

    They are successfully training the kid to torment and tease dogs, ensuring an eventual bite, congratulations! Obviously not the first time, the poor dog is apprehensive from the get-go. You don’t need to know a damn thing about analyzing canine behavior to see that.
    We were never allowed to tease/grab the family dog, or go near it when it was eating. Just common sense.

  5. August 26, 2013 at 8:03 AM

    I saw this video and was also concerned for the child – and the dog! A dog who bites doesn’t just do it “out of the blue”. People should learn to read their dog’s body language and protect them and their children. Unfortunately, it is the dog who may ultimately pay the price for their ignorance.

  6. August 26, 2013 at 10:29 AM

    The dog’s moves were so fast – how could anyone in the room think a mouth that fast on a child that young was not a “real” bite, or could hurt regardless??

    • August 26, 2013 at 10:45 AM

      That kid should not be anywhere NEAR the dog until he learns to respect its space. (Since the parents are idiots, that might not be til he’s a teenager, if ever.)

  7. August 26, 2013 at 3:47 PM

    Wow! That’s one scary video. Makes my hair stand on end.

  8. August 26, 2013 at 4:12 PM

    I decided not to watch the video as well. But I appreciated your play-by-play and trust your observations.

    Not only do many people miss clues that their dog is uncomfortable. Sometimes they misinterpret a dog’s discomfort as “cute.”

    Thanks for sharing the link. I plan to write to The Family Dog to get permission to embed their teaching video when I get back. As an avid watcher of Schoolhouse Rock, I know how effective songs can be for teaching children. 🙂

  9. Mickey W.
    August 26, 2013 at 8:37 PM

    Did the video stop because the last thing the dog did at the end was bite the kid in the face? That’s what it looks like he was about to do – that dog was NOT kidding anymore. Letting it get so far as to even grab the child’s hands and arms was too far.

    • Mel
      August 26, 2013 at 8:50 PM

      That’s what I wonder Mickey. I am afraid it might have, but I am hoping the owner recognized the snarl as needing to take action immediately to remove the child from the dog.

  10. martie13
    August 27, 2013 at 11:26 AM

    It was extremely disconcerting to watch this video from the very beginning. When videos like this are made it’s usually because the person with the camera thinks is “cute” or somehow show-offy that the dog is so patient with the child. Because none of the adults know the first thing about dog behavior and calming signals they misunderstand that the dog is not being patient at all, he is impatiently wishing that the child would go away and signaling for her to stop. That the adults can’t see this is alarming. I agree with Mickey and Mel that it appears the video stops abruptly because it’s likely that something did happen. If so, I hope the child was not injured badly and that it led to the parents being shaken enough to realize that their degree of knowledge is sorely lacking in dog behavior and dog-child interactions. Unfortunately it sometimes takes serious consequences for some people to get the message, and I hope the response was not to blame the dog.

    I wish there was some way to find out who posted this video on Facebook because I certainly would be willing to send them a message and start a dialogue with them.

  11. Dave
    September 4, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    The dog is waiting for food. The child is distracting this dog, the dog is indicating back off this is my food. The fact that someone filmed this is even more disturbing. From the very first grab, the child should or the dog should of been removed. PERIOD. The child does not understand that this dog does not want her to touch him. The Adults/Idiots should of intervened by removing either the Food, Dog, or child.

    This dog will become a dangerous animal because of Idiot owners. These individuals should be placed on a no pet list.

  12. wendy winters
    November 1, 2013 at 10:22 AM

    Im heartbroken and torn what to do. Should I have my 3 year old Catahoula leopard dog put down. She has shown her teeth and snarls and looks at you scary when you give her atreat or bone and then sit next to her. I feel like she would bite me if I or a child would go closer to it. She also has bitten my dog in the past over treats. She also gets aggressive and would attack I believe my cats when they hiss at her. Is this a serious and just me in denial that somethimg bad could happen one day. Please get back to me desperate my husband wants to put her down soon. I’m trying to save her from this if possible. Thank you so much.. Wendy crazydaisydoda@gmail.com 0r facebook me at Wendy fazzi winters.

    • Mel
      November 1, 2013 at 8:06 PM

      That’s called resource guarding and it can be addressed and managed. Read up on it before you start assuming your dog is aggressive. It might also be worth contacting a positive trainer who can help you understand why this is happening and how to address it. My brother’s dog is a resource guarder and with help from a trainer and me they have managed it quite well.

  13. March 11, 2014 at 10:15 PM

    Shame on whoever was taking the video. That dog is one second from biting that child. Very clear that it wants nothing to do with the child touching it.

  1. September 7, 2013 at 1:41 PM

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