In the vast majority of cases, dogs do not bite for fun, or for “no reason”. Ninety nine percent of the time, a bite is a dog’s last resort for defence – of his food, space, pups, owner, or self. And, being of similar size, children, in a dog’s mind, pose the greatest threat – and as a result are those most commonly bitten.
Dog bites, as mentioned in our last post, result from a dog’s possessiveness, fear, pain, maternal instinct, frustration, or natural prey drive. (Remember being told as a child to never run away from a dog? That is because, when you run, the dog sees you as prey – either as part of a game or for real). Dogs will often bite as a warning or in self-preservation – and not understand the damage they can do so very easily. Sometimes, a bite is a result of excitable play.
Prevention of dog bites begins with you at home, and is part of being a responsible dog owner. And it includes, if you have children or children who visit regularly, “training” the children in dog safety as much as it does training the dog.
Some tips for dog bite prevention include:
• Have your dog desexed or spayed if you do not intend to breed him or her. This reduces biting behaviours.
• Never allow your dog to roam off the leash where he may pose a danger to others. Even the most placid dog may be startled to nip when approached by a child in a park, for example.
• Play with and exercise your dog regularly. This will expend extra energy so that it does not transform into nervous energy. It will also reinforce the human-canine bond.
• Avoid aggressive games which can lead to dominance issues (e.g., tug-of-war or wrestling). Your dog needs to know that he is NOT the leader of the pack.
• Do not encourage nipping games. Puppies mouth and nip naturally; it’s imperative to ensure this behaviour does not extend into adulthood.
• Train your dog well in obedience and basic commands: recall, sit, stay.
• Socialise your dog and be sure to expose him to various situations – but be careful that he does not become overwhelmed.
• Keep your dogs vaccinations up to date.
• Teach your dog to be gentle – dogs can be trained to use their mouth gently during human interaction. Young dogs naturally learn bite inhibition when playing with other dogs. (We will cover Bite Inhibition in more depth in a future post).
• Educate children and adults alike on dog behaviours, and warning signs. A dog’s demeanour can say an awful lot about where their mind and tolerance level is at.
• Teach children to never
Hug or touch a sleeping dog
Blow in a dog’s face
Approach a dog while he is eating, drinking, or has a bone
Ride a dog like a pony
Poke, prod, or tickle a dog
Pull his tail
Hurt a dog
Finally, if you are ever in the presence of a menacing dog, do not run; stay quiet and calm, and avoid eye contact.
While many people believe that their beloved family dog loves the children as much as they love him, chances are he loves them from a distance – and like anyone, dogs have limits when it comes to their patience and tolerance. It’s really important to know the warning signs and teach kids to give Fido his space.