Experts reveal why dogs bite....

Jodi - posted on 05/16/2011 ( 15 moms have responded )




Ah yes, yet another dog bite post. I know these can get a bit hairy, so what the heck.

New research has revealed that half of dog bite victims are young children, who pat resting pets.

The findings have animal experts urging parents to teach their kids the warning signs of an upset dog, particularly when most injuries are from dogs that are known to the child.

TV Vet, Dr Harry Cooper, said it is important to teach children what an aggressive dog looks like.

"They may have a dog of their own and that dog’s happy and friendly so they just think every dog’s happy and friendly," he said.

"So if a dog bares its teeth, as they do, and starts to growl, they don’t know what that is."

International experts agree and say it's often best to follow the old adage and 'just let sleeping dogs lie'.

"If the dog approaches you, that's a better scenario," President-elect of the American College of Veterinary Behaviourists, Dr Jacqueline Neilson said.

"But, the vast responsibility lies upon the parents to actually make sure that they’re doing the appropriate management and supervision, to make sure that the child doesn’t put itself in a dangerous situation."

Dog experts, together in Adelaide for the Australian Veterinary Association's annual conference, also agree that smaller houses and busier lifestyles mean animal owners aren't socialising dogs enough to prepare them for contact with other people.

"At this day and age we’re keeping our dogs confined behind fences, on leads, indoors a lot more, so that opportunity to engage with the wider world is much smaller," Australian Veterinary Association spokeswoman, Dr Debbie Calnon said.

Dr Neilson agrees.

"Unfortunately, as more and more people have become city dwellers, they have also become less familiar with how to interact safely with dogs and other animals," she said.

Experts say the best benefit of 'puppy schools' is that it gets the dog used to unfamiliar surroundings, reducing the anxiety and confusion that brings about aggression in dogs.

"Education is vital to dog bite prevention in modern communities, and understanding dog behaviour is an important step towards having the right tools to educate both animals and people," Dr Neilson said.

And Dr Harry's top tip for teaching kids to approach dogs?

"I would always use a closed fist held below the dog’s nose and then if you’re going to scratch the dog, scratch it under the chin," he said.

"Because patting a dog on the top of the head, which 99 out of every 100 people do, and it took me 30 years to stop doing it myself, is the wrong way to go."

He estimates there are about 50,000 hospitalisations for dog bites in Australia each year and said it's important to remember dogs aren't toys.

"Kids get bitten all the time... we need to educate them on what an aggressive dog looks like and what it’s going to do if you take that extra step." he said.

"The way (for kids) to approach a dog, is to always approach a dog with somebody, never a dog on its own."

"So if this dog is on a lead and the child is with an adult then I think the two can meet and the child should ask the owner of the dog, ‘Can I say hi to your dog?’"

So....does this settle the debate of which dogs are more likely to bite? Or do our resident experts have an opinion to share :D


Mary - posted on 05/16/2011




I'm not a "resident expert" - just a dog owner with a toddler, lol!
But I think there is a lot of validity in this piece. Molly is 2 1/2. Because she is so comfortable with her own big dogs (who both have the patience and tolerance of a saint), I have been almost obsessive about teaching her she MUST stop and ask before petting a dog we don't know. We walk around our neighborhood a lot in nice weather, and there are a gazillion dogs being walked. If she could, she would run up to every single one of them. I have been as drill-sargently with this as I have about stopping, holding hands and looking for cars before crossing the street. It has, so far, been effective. She points out every "puppy" we see, and says "Mommy, can we go meet the new puppy?" ANd every blessed time (even when I know the dog and owner) I make her stand still and ask, and make her wait until the dog comes to her.

Conversely, I am absolutely amazed at the number of parents who allow their child to just run right up to my dogs without asking if they are friendly. Now, granted, the general public falls into two distinct camps when it comes to my boys: those that cross the street to avoid us, and the fools that assume that the presence of a toddler on my back means that they are friendly, and therefore safe to allow their kid to run right up and shove a waving hand in their face. I think both of these groups are clueless.

Kate CP - posted on 05/16/2011




One of the things I have drilled into my daughter from a VERY young age is to always ask the owner first if it's okay to pet the dog. Even if *I* have already pet the dog she STILL has to ask because some dogs are okay with adults and not kids. She knows to be gentle and let them sniff her first and to stand at their side and pet the side of their neck and back, NOT their head.

Dogs bite while sleeping because you've just scared the bejeezus out of them. They are very prone when sleeping and eating and if they have guarding issues it just compounds the need to "defend" themselves and their area. Spot on article.

It's really, REALLY rude to just wander up and pet a dog or allow your kid to do the same. I can't tell you how many times that happened to me with my previous dog, Cooper, who thank God was a therapy dog and loved people. He was a husky and just so fluffy and had a gorgeous face. People just wanted to touch him all the time and kids loved hugging his furry neck. I would be talking to a client or a customer and have Cooper standing next to me and next thing I know I look down and there's a kid hanging off my dog. Cooper's standing their snuffling and smiling and wagging his tail and I'm looking around for the kid's parent. My dog was NOT small and if he didn't like kids he could have easily taken off a child's face. I still shake my head when I see people who don't control their children around dogs. Some dogs see kids as prey: fast moving, high pitched, and unpredictable GIANT squirrels. You should
***A L W A Y S*** ask permission to pet or approach a dog. I don't care how friendly it LOOKS. It's rude to just walk up on a dog.


View replies by

Bonnie - posted on 05/17/2011




For some people, they see a dog and their first instinct is to touch it. But yes, common sense would be to ask the owner first.

Jodi - posted on 05/16/2011




I think you will find the research is that they have taken all the dog bite cases and come up with a percentage of what caused each bite.

And I agree with Mary, it is common sense to an intelligent person - but there are a lot of not so intelligent people out there.

~♥Little Miss - posted on 05/16/2011




You are absolutely right Mary, common sense for some....not so much for others. I was mainly directing my commment at the "new research" this is nothing new.

Mary - posted on 05/16/2011




And while many of you may think this is all common sense stuff - you'd be amazed at the number of people for whom it is not. For crap's sake - I am walking a pit mix and ridgeback mix; their combined weight is 150lbs. And yet...there are numerous people who, along with their kids, come running up to my dogs, and are all over them with nary a word to me. Luckily, my boys are (too) friendly, and are stupid enough to love all people on sight.

Jayce - posted on 05/16/2011




No shit, Sherlock.

Seems like common sense to me to teach your children how to behave around and with animals...all animals not just dogs.

~♥Little Miss - posted on 05/16/2011




So...where is the new research? I saw nothing new....common sense...

Tina - posted on 05/16/2011




You can teach you're children as well as like how to behave around animals and the same for a dog with children. But there is always the risk that it could bite no matter what type or size of the animal. I'd never leave my child unsupervised around any animal. It's just not worth the risk. I would discourage a child from going up to a strange dog of any kind. It may look nice but still there is always a risk. A dog could be friendly and not have had any problems and then take a disliking to one person. I've heard of that happening before, surprised the owner.

Lady Heather - posted on 05/16/2011




Yeah, we are working really hard on teaching Freja not to pet any dogs but her own without permission. She has a mild dog obsession. And we won't let her pat our own dogs when they are eating. They won't do anything, but I think that's probably one of the worse times to try and attempt to pet a strange dog, so we try to discourage the behaviour in general.

I never have this problem with random people wanting to pet my dogs though because apparently Kallie is scary looking. She is the most harmless creature ever and not even very big. She is just coloured like a rottie so that is scary? I don't get it.

Mel - posted on 05/16/2011




my daughter is the same she will go up to any dog, and the owners allow it so I dont mind. I try to tech my daughters to be nice to t\our dogs, but they just like to play with them and are still young so are not fully sure how to play without hurting them

[deleted account]

I agree, i never allow my children near dogs.I teach them all the time to never touch a resting dog, a dog who is feeding etc.Dogs who they do not know as family pets.My children love animals.One day they were looking and i was very happy to see them stay away from the dog.Until the owner brought the dog over.I stepped in then and spoke to the owner.Told him why they were at a distance.I trust no animal as i have seen how fast a loved family pet (dog) can snap and cause serious damage.

Jodi - posted on 05/16/2011




I was kidding about the resident expert thing :D

But I agree with you. My daughter would totally go up to ANY dog and want to cuddle it, and we don't have ANY dogs. I have had to teach her not to go near a dog unless we ask because we don't know if it will be friendly or not. She is very good at that, but in the past, I always had to be vigilant whenever there was a dog in her vision, because she would automatically make a beeline for it. But now, she knows better. I don't know if I have ever told you her "Can I pat it?" story? She went through a stage, ebcause of my vigilance, where she always asked if she could touch anything. We had a few interesting moments with that one... :/

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