Every day a child gets bitten by a dog. Most of the bites aren't going to end up in the news because the damage isn't that severe, but they're still happening. Being bitten is no fun; I'll be the first to tell you. And no kid should have to learn the hard way. Let's take a deeper look into why kids are often the victims of dog bites.
Kids aren't as predictable as adults
The average kid is running, screaming, falling, throwing stuff, trying to approach the dog etc. These behaviors can make a dog uneasy. This is especially true if these behaviors are all happening at once. Trigger stacking is when multiple things that stress a dog happen at the same time. The result of too many triggers being stacked on is typically a bite.
Warning signs go unnoticed
When something stresses a dog the response from the dog is a change in body language. Most frequently you will see him start to pant, look away, lick his lips, yawn, stare, furrow his brow, freeze, growl, show his teeth and then bite. Not every dog is going to do all of those behaviors. This is just a list of behaviors that often occur when a dog is stressed. From the videos I see posted online it is easy to tell that a lot of people don’t recognize these behaviors as precursors to a bite.
Children are allowed to do inappropriate behaviors to their own dogs
Children are often allowed and even encouraged to climb on the family dog. The mentality behind this is that the dog should be fine with it. This is the main reason why children get bitten. This isn’t the child’s fault. We need to coach and teach our children how to interact appropriately with a dog.
Another similar way that children get bitten is by their friends’ dogs. Those dogs don’t know your child. And if you’ve taught your child that climbing on your dog is okay, they’re most likely going to try climbing on strange dogs too. Strange dogs are a lot less likely to tolerate the behavior from a strange child and often times a bite occurs.
Children approach dogs
This goes hand in hand with the previous section. Children should never be allowed to approach dogs. It should always be the other way around. If a dog is in a position to be approached, he probably doesn’t want to be messed with. He is either relaxing, eating, drinking, working on a bone or sleeping. If you don’t enjoy being touched or climbed on when you’re doing something, your dog probably doesn’t either. You can communicate this though with your voice. A dog can only communicate this with body language and some little vocalizations. As we discussed above, those often go unnoticed or are downplayed and then a bite occurs.
The overall theme here is that children are innocent. It’s our job to teach and coach them on how to interact with animals. We obviously don’t want our children to get hurt by an animal so we need to ensure that we’re not unintentionally putting them in a position for it to happen.
Do you have to reach all the way to the ground in order for your dog to lie down? While this isn't the end of the world, it's actually quite easy to teach a dog to lie down with you standing up straight. Your back will definitely thank you!
This method being used here is taught by Jean Donaldson, found of The Academy for Dog Trainers. The overall idea is to break it down into 3 steps. If your dog is doing the first step 4 out of 5 or 5 out of 5 times, you're ready to increase the difficulty and move to the next step. This is explained more in the video. The end goal is for your dog to lie down for a hand signal while you're standing up straight.
Want to get this on a verbal cue? Teach this sequence and once your dog can do it for the small hand signal, add the verbal cue in just before. You can read more about that here.