Home > Animal Welfare Issues, Dog Behavior, Dog Park, Dog Training, Pet Safety, Pet Videos > Dogs and Kids: Stop pretending that dogs don’t bite them

Dogs and Kids: Stop pretending that dogs don’t bite them


Jasper's new friend. He threw his stick for him until he could barely chase it anymore.On Wednesday night, I took the dogs to the dog park (like I usually do). Jasper spent his time chasing after sticks, Daisy explored the woods and Cupcake sniffed to her heart’s desire. We even walked with some friends (Tom and his dogs Ruby and Max), and said hello to a few other friends we know. It was fun evening

It was towards the end of our walk that we first heard them. Children. Little ones. We could also hear their dog barking, and the owner calling it over and over again, with absolutely no success. Trouble was coming. I could just feel it. I called Daisy, Jasper and Cupcake to me and we headed out of the woods and across the field to the far end of the park.

I admit I am always little wary of anyone bringing kids to the park. You just never know what can happen. I watched from across the field as the little children exited the woods with two women. They all turned and walked along the edge of the field – away from us.  I breathed a sigh of relief and led my dogs in the opposite direction.

As we walked, I noticed that the older child, about 5 years old, was carrying an arm load of sticks. The other child a toddler about 2-3 years old, followed closely behind him and then stopped to pick up a stick of his own.

The older boy followed his mom and the other woman down the mulched path, away from the toddler. I kept watching as he and the two women kept moving away from the toddler, widening the distance between them. They got a good distance away from him before they even turned to see where he was. They seemed unconcerned that they were so far away from him.

Jack Russell Terrier SnarlingIt was then I saw the dog approach. He went right up to the child’s hand and face and grabbed the stick right from his hand. (Luckily, the toddler did not try to take it back.) The dog stayed there, looking at the child, no more than a couple of feet away from him and his face, not moving closer, but also not moving away.  It was not until  his owner called him back to her, that he finally left the child. Thankfully, he had a great recall.

The whole time this was going on, the mother and other woman just stood there, almost half the length of the dog park away from the toddler. They did not yell, or call his name, or even start to run back to him. They just sent the older son back to retrieve him. I don’t even think they realized how dangerous a position her child had been in. I don’t think she realized how quickly this incident could have turned into a tragedy.

She was damn lucky. How foolish that mother was to bring her small child to a dog park, filled with dogs she did not know, and then leave him in such a terribly vulnerable position. A dog bite could have happened so easily. Another dog could have caused some serious damage to her child. That this dog, or another dog, did not do so is a miracle. That mother was so very lucky that the dog her toddler encountered was well-trained and had a good recall. She was lucky her child encountered  a “good” dog. But, let’s face it, even a “good” dog can bite.

We humans have to get better at preventing dog bites. We need to take interactions between dogs and kids more seriously. We need to be more purposeful about where, when and HOW we expose dogs and kids to one another. And, I’m not just talking about stranger’s dogs either. More children are bitten by the family pet than by a dog they do not know.

So how do we get better at keeping both dogs and kids safe?

We must:

  • Teach kids that they have to ask permission before approaching a strange dog. ALWAYS.
  • Educate kids on how to tell when a dog is safe to approach and then how to do so safely. Make it a game. Quiz them in the car and in the park. (Stop the 77 has a great video for pre-schoolers called “I Speak Doggie.”)
  • Supervise, whenever a dog and child are together (NO multi-tasking or playing on your cell phone). We need to be completely present and watching their interactions. We also need to be watching for signals that the dog is done with the interaction. (4Paws University shared a great graphic and information today on their Facebook page.) If you see a dog LOOK AWAY, TURN AWAY or MOVE AWAY, the dog has had enough and you need to either remove the dog or the child from the interaction.
  • Stop punishing dogs for growling. This is your warning sign that your dog has had enough. When you punish a dog for growling, you are taking away the alarm bell that tells you a bite could happen. (4Paws University shared a great graphic on this one too.)
  • Teach our kids how to act when a strange dog approaches them that is scary. (Doggone Safe shows children how to Be Like A Tree in order to avoid a dog bite.)
  • Stop pretending that your dog is different from other dogs and that they like having a child climbing on them. They really don’t. Do you like it when a child pulls your hair, yanks on your ear, steps on your gut, kicks your leg or bites you? No? If we don’t like it, then why do we expect dogs to like it any better? It’s not cute. It’s rude (and dangerous).

When a dog bites a child, everyone pays a price.

You lose a dog and a best friend.

Your child loses a friend and his love and trust of dogs.

The dog loses its life.

The kind of behavior displayed in the video below (And if that doesn’t scare you enough, maybe this one will.) has lose-lose results for everyone. Let’s make it stop.

Stop pretending dogs don’t bite.

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  1. Keri
    May 20, 2015 at 11:12 PM

    Really important post…. Very well stated!

    • Mel
      May 21, 2015 at 10:37 PM

      Thank you! I hope it helps to prevent a future bite.

  2. May 20, 2015 at 11:20 PM

    Excellent post! I shared it!

    • Mel
      May 21, 2015 at 10:36 PM

      Thank you and Thank you!

  3. May 20, 2015 at 11:44 PM

    You are definitely right. This could have ended in some kind of tragedy. I totally agree that the mother acted carelessly. I can’t understand she behaved that way. Thanks for this post.

  4. May 21, 2015 at 12:29 AM

    Well that second video was pretty scary – parents are idiots and the kid is lucky the dog was restraining himself to the degree that he could – so far.

    • Mel
      May 21, 2015 at 10:35 PM

      I know. That second one always gives me the heebie jeebies.

  5. May 21, 2015 at 2:08 AM

    Thanks so much for writing this and posting it. I would like to reblog it on Dog Leader Mysteries because I know the lives of children and dogs rest on a new understanding of this danger. I tend to warn child off our dog, even though we adopted him 11 years ago, he was a known biter of Vets, groomers and animal shelter volunteers. Just because he is only 15 pounds doesn’t mean his bites did not hurt. My fingers swelled up in our first year teaching him not to bite. Under stress just about any dog can bite. I know a friends toddler was bitten on the head by a family dog who had never bitten before, 27 stitches later could have been avoided with understanding and careful supervision.

    • Mel
      May 21, 2015 at 10:34 PM

      Thanks for reflagging. It’s about getting the word out. I don;t let kids approach my dogs unless we are in our yard and I have control over the situation. Too much can go wrong.

      • May 21, 2015 at 10:52 PM

        Good going, I never want to put a dog into a situation where he or she becomes frightened or fearful, due to a child thinking that the dog looks like a stuffed animal. Our dog being 15 pounds of white fluffy poodle makes toddlers want to hug him. We gently warn them off, saying he gets scared by new people trying to pet him and new large dogs cutting in too close while we are walking.

      • Mel
        May 22, 2015 at 6:51 AM

        That is a smart way to handle it. Yes, I bet little dogs like yours are often viewed as cuter and more approachable.

      • May 27, 2015 at 3:58 PM

        Yep, little dogs appear harmless due to their size & cuteness. But even puppies bite. I’ve been bitten by puppies, their teeth sharp as needles caused my fingers to swell. Never. Ever. Would I want my dog to bite anyone, biting a child would be horrible for any dog parent.

        Society needs to face reality. Animals bite. Even human child bite. We don’t live in Disneyland, we live with other animals. All of us can become defensive or frightened.

      • May 27, 2015 at 4:03 PM

        Sorry it took so long to reply. Been traveling.

      • Mel
        May 28, 2015 at 9:54 PM

        I see that! Nicaragua? Wow!

      • May 28, 2015 at 10:18 PM

        Actually, Japan.

  6. May 21, 2015 at 2:13 AM

    Reblogged this on Dog Leader Mysteries and commented:
    Dear Reader,

    Due to the importance of this topic I hope you will read the full blog and to share it and always possible. Reblog, email or share on social media or write your own experiences and family stories on this topic. Saving dogs’ lives means saving children’s lives and faces too, I know because a neighbors’ dog bit our five-year-old on the face and sent us all to the ER for hours. Thanks for looking in. Deborah

  7. rachdean1
    May 21, 2015 at 5:46 AM

    Great info. Thanks

  8. May 21, 2015 at 7:22 AM

    While ignorance on the part of the parents is partially to blame, a comment made by a dog behaviorist (which we had consulted regarding Ray) shocked us. We had asked whether we could expect any issues getting Ray to wear a muzzle and his response was “There is rarely a problem getting a dog to wear a muzzle if introduced to it correctly however, there is often a problem getting the owner to adjust to their dog wearing a muzzle.” this appears to be a simple “false pride” situation – I don’t want to be seen with a dog wearing a muzzle. Can human nature really be that stupid?(no answer required).

    • Mel
      May 21, 2015 at 10:33 PM

      You know what? I totally believe that behaviorist. I think we worry about how others will judge us and our dog when they wear a muzzle. I admit freely that my heart skips a beat when I see a dog with a muzzle on, but then I remind myself it is there for a reason.

      • May 22, 2015 at 2:50 AM

        Ray loves his muzzle (Baskerville)! It gives him lots of space so he can eat treats. He gets a treat for allowing us to put it on him, and more treats when we take it off him but, you know what is the best….. people rarely invade his space! 🙂

      • Mel
        May 22, 2015 at 6:49 AM

        Now THAT is an added bonus! I am glad he does so well with it. I have no doubt you helped him to be comfortable with it on.

  9. May 21, 2015 at 8:24 AM

    People are snot very smart sometimes. Great article that every parent should read.

    • Mel
      May 21, 2015 at 10:31 PM

      Thanks Mary. I think parents just get comfortable and forget.

  10. May 21, 2015 at 9:17 AM

    great article. it is sad that so many people think “oh it is just a dog it will be fine” until it isn’t. and then the dog pays the price for a parent (or dog owner) not paying attention and doing their job. for every time I hear a dog bite story in the news, I want to ask “what was the kid doing?” are kids or parents always to blame? no, but they are a good part of the time and dogs and dog owners shouldn’t have to take on that responsibility.

    • Mel
      May 21, 2015 at 10:31 PM

      Well-said. It is often what I wonder first – what precipitated the bite?

  11. Flea
    May 21, 2015 at 9:40 AM

    This made me nervous just reading it! It’s heartbreaking when people don’t pay attention, don’t know safety measures with kids and dogs.

    • Mel
      May 21, 2015 at 10:30 PM

      I know! I was frozen in fear when it happened! Luckily, the dog, who I know, walked away, but even grabbing the stick he could have accidentally bitten the child. That’s what is so stupid about this parent. What was she thinking?

  12. May 21, 2015 at 10:17 AM

    Great post Mel…going to share. The vid you have is scary enough, don’t think I can even watch the other one.

  13. jan
    May 21, 2015 at 10:48 AM

    I have seen so many parents who are proud that their children go up to strange dogs without fear…a tragedy just waiting to happen and they will be so shocked when it does

    • Mel
      May 21, 2015 at 10:29 PM

      Me too Jan. It drives me absolutely nuts. It’s always the dog and the child who pay the price for their ignorance.

  14. May 21, 2015 at 10:54 AM

    Most dog parks that I’ve seen have signs about no kids under a certain age…..of course it’s not enforced and the parents do what they please. I won’t even take my dogs to a dog park, so my squealing clumsy toddler definitely shouldn’t be there!

    • Mel
      May 21, 2015 at 10:28 PM

      Our dog park allows children but they must be under adult supervision at all times. Unfortunately, many people do not read the rules before coming inside. I’m pretty particular about the dog parks I visit. Our has been nice and is patrolled by the park police, but lately a less experienced proud has been coming and they are not the brightest bulbs in the bunch.

  15. May 21, 2015 at 12:14 PM

    I go nuts when I see children at the dog park. And people don’t even understand the danger dogs can do unintentionally. For example, I’ve seen children approach Honey with food in their hand or a soft toy. So far, I’ve always noticed the temptation first and kept Honey on a short lead. But if I got distracted, I could see Honey grabbing something and accidentally hurting a child or giving one a bad fright.

    In an era of helicopter parents, isn’t it astounding how nonchalant people can be around dogs?

    • Mel
      May 21, 2015 at 10:26 PM

      God Pamela, I can so relate. All it takes is one grab for a stick or food and you could have an accidental bite. I refuse to put my dog’s lives at risk because a parent did not use their brain and put their child at risk. I love your comment on helicopter parenting. Good question!

  16. May 22, 2015 at 10:01 AM

    I couldn’t watch the video, it was just too scary! I was pregnant with my third child, when my first “on my own dog” died. I waited 4 years to get another dog because I was so concerned that toddlers and dogs don’t mix. I never left my small kids unsupervised with any dog because there is too much at stake.

    • Mel
      May 24, 2015 at 7:10 AM

      Beth – I love what you did. It shows how conscious you were of the dangers of toddlers and dogs. I wish more parents would follow your example.

  17. May 22, 2015 at 12:48 PM

    I was shocked by the video; the parents were careless and the dog had clearly had enough ,yet they didn’t remove the child from the situation. This is such a serious topic that a lot of dog owners should pay attention to. Children often assume that most dogs are friendly, and even so, parents should take precautions to keep their children safe at all times. You posted some great tips, and I hope it reaches the right people.

    • Mel
      May 24, 2015 at 7:09 AM

      I was shocked the first time I watched it. It was so scary to see the child and dog interact and no fault intervene at all. Parents need to stop assuming every dog is friendly and likes people in general, but especially children.

  18. May 23, 2015 at 12:52 AM

    This is a very important message, just subscribed, great job x

    • Mel
      May 24, 2015 at 7:08 AM

      Thank you. ❤

  19. May 23, 2015 at 9:36 AM

    Great post. Adults need to be reminded every bit as much as children, about the proper way to approach dogs. 🙂

  1. May 20, 2015 at 11:42 PM

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