27 Apr Lets Stop Dog Bites
How to Stop a Dog from Biting?
‘Around 13,000 people each year attend hospital emergency departments in Australia for dog bites, according to new data from Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital. Of those, children under the age of five are most at risk and children are at least three times more likely to experience a bite needing medical attention than adults.’
We all know that children need supervising around dogs. So why are the numbers of children being bitten by dogs that high? And what were the adults or parents doing to allow these dog bites to happen?
Maybe they just didn’t know what they should be looking for. Maybe they know about children’s behaviour and what to look for but they didn’t know about dogs.
From my observations, from spending a lot of time in dog parks over the past 5 years, it’s not only the parents and supervising adults of children who don’t recognise ‘basic canine body language’, but also the owners and supervising adults of dogs as well.
We all know the happy, friendly dog, tail wagging and body wriggling, mouth open, tongue lolling, head turned toward you with eyes focused on your face.’
What people can miss or either don’t recognise, misinterpret or disregard are some of the ‘indivisible’ signals. Even if they do ‘see’ them they don’t understand what the dog is trying to say.
An uncomfortable dog will become still, posture and body stiff, head averted, mouth tight, eyes turned away. He might ‘yawn’ which has nothing to do with being tired. He might ‘lick his lips’ showing anxiety. His breathing might become quick and shallow so he is panting. He will have ‘moon’ eyes.
This child is in danger but for the parent, it may be seen as just giving the puppy a cuddle. The child may be praised for being god and loving the nice dog. And if the dog went further in showing his disease he might be told off for growling and not be nice.
It’s time for an adult or parent to step in and take the child away, to give the dog space and to let the child know that the dog doesn’t want to play right now. Dogs need space. A cornered dog will often respond in a ‘fight’ response and nip if it feels unable to flee.
Children need to learn not poke or hit a dog. Not to pull its tail, ears, fur or collar. They need to understand they can’t sit on a dog when it’s sitting or lying down. They need to learn how to play nicely with a dog.
While your dog might not be ‘food aggressive’ many dogs are so keeping children with food away from dogs is very important. Something adults need to learn too. Children need to be taught not to approach a dog that is eating or chewing on a bone.
Some dogs will guard their food bowls, toys, balls, and sticks, anything they regard as ‘voluble’. They might pick up the item and run away or stand and growl showing their teeth. This ‘resource guarding’ is dangerous for adults and children.
Many people will discipline a dog for growling or showing “aggression” toward a child, but these signals are important, as they are the signals that are used in place of a bite, and should not be discouraged at any point. If your dog is showing either of these signs, you need to remove the dog from the situation and give them some space to relax away from the children.
A dog that chooses to move away from a child is making a choice. He’s saying, “I don’t really want to be bothered, so I’ll go away.” However, if you fail to listen to this choice and allow the child to continue, it’s likely the dog’s next choice will be, “Since I can’t get away, I’ll growl or nip to get the child to move away.”
Understanding what dogs are trying to tell us, with their body language, is an important lesson for us to learn as more and more dogs become the companion of choice in our busy urban lifestyle.