Child Dog Bites

Dogs are in fact, not just a pet, but beloved members of our family. Cases, where a dog bites a young child, are both emotional and tragic for both the child and the dog. The result can be a lifetime of both mental and physical scars for the child and the pet may end up in a shelter, where he has a low probability of safe adoption.

child dog bite victim

And, the fact is…


The Humane Society estimates that of the approximately 4.7 million dog bites that occur each year in the United States, 51% of those victims are children.

The National Canine Research Council

That is over 2.4 million child dog bite victims per year. And according to the CDC….

77% of child dog bite victims are bitten by a dog that belongs to their own family or a friend’s family.

Center For Disease Control and Prevention

As a child dog bite victim myself, a Mother of 2 toddler boys, and a professional dog trainer, I can not stress the importance of these statistics enough. It happens. And often. But it CAN BE PREVENTED!!! It does not need to happen to your child. By simply knowing, you can prevent making these common mistakes parents make that can cause a family dog to bite your children.

Here are 10 Common Mistakes Parents Make That Can Result in Their Child Being Bitten by a Dog.

child dog bites

    1.)  Not Supervising Interactions Between Dogs and Kids

No matter how well you think you know your pet, always supervise your kids around the dog.

Even if the child is well-behaved and the dog very tolerant, it’s essential for all interactions to be supervised. Children should be taught to be polite as dogs dislike being handled roughly.

2.) Punishing Your Dog For Growling 

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Punishing your dog for growling is a big no-no. Growling is a warning your dog is giving letting those around him know that he is uncomfortable or scared. If you punish your dog for growling, chances are that he will learn not to growl, which also means not to give a warning, before the situation escalates, going right to a snap or even worse a bite.

Teach your kids to immediately back away if your dog growls and to let you know. It is then your job to figure out what caused the growl and prevent your dog from being put in that position in the future. It is highly recommended to get an experienced trainer involved in these scenarios.

3.) Not Educating Your Child About Pet Safety

Dogs and kids are not born with innate good manners, nor are they born with an instinct to interact appropriately with each other. You need to teach them both basic manners, this includes teaching your children how to safely live and interact with pets. Doing so can prevent a dog bite to your child.

  • Do not disturb your dog while eating or sleeping. When possible give the dog his own safe zone that is off-limits to the kids so they have their own place to retreat in the case that they feel fearful or stressed.
  • Teach your children to move slowly around dogs and not to run past or away from them.
  • Teach your children canine body language and let them know the warning signs of aggression, fear, and anxiety.
  • Do not encourage aggressive or rough play with any dog.
  • Teach impulse control to both your kids and your dog. You can improve your dog’s impulse control through training, patience, and consistency.
  • Never let your child approach a dog that is chained up or behind a fence.
  • Never let your child put their face near a dog’s face.
  • Get your kids involved in dog training the right way.

4.) Not Teaching Your Child to Respect Your Dog

Teach your kids to approach dogs with respect. This includes asking the owner of dogs they are not familiar with for permission before trying to approach or pet them. Always encourage gentle handling. Children should never hit, pull, or climb on top of their dogs. Don’t let your child put their face close to the dog or lay on top of them. Encourage your child to participate in dog training and other activities. 

Remind your child that dogs do not always like the presence of strangers. Also, ask your children’s friends to be gentle and to give your dog some space. If you have concerns that your children’s friends will not act appropriately around your dog, put your dog away in a safe place.

When to keep dogs and kids apart

There are times when you should not let your child be around your dog. These times and scenarios include the following:

  • Your dog is sleeping: A dog should not be disturbed by a child while he is sleeping. Make sure your dog’s sleeping area is in a quiet place, where it can sleep without being disturbed.
  • The dog is eating his food or chewing a treat: Separate your dog and your child at mealtimes or snack times. Don’t let your child play with or near your dog’s food or water bowl.
  • Your child doesn’t know the dog: your child shouldn’t touch a stray or unfamiliar dog, even if they look friendly, without the permission of the owner.
  • The dog is tied up: A dog that’s tied up is uncomfortable or scared. It might get upset instead and bite your child.
  • The dog is sick or injured: Pain, injury, or discomfort might cause the dog to be less friendly than usual.
  • The female dog is with her puppies: If a female dog has puppies, she might feel protective of her babies. If your child approaches the dog who is with her puppies, she might get aggressive.
  • The dog is playing with his favorite toy: Don’t let your child take dog’s toy when he’s playing with it. If the dog has taken a toy away from your child, teach your child to call you rather than trying to get the toy back.

5.) Over-Humanizing Your Dog

Kids love to humanize their dogs. They enjoy dressing them up, putting them in strollers, painting their nails, and much more. While that’s cute and in some circumstances, it may be okay, kids often forget that dogs are animals and they treat them like human friends, forgetting that they are in fact animals.

When kids forget that a dog is actually an animal, they are more likely to think it is okay to break the rules on how to interact appropriately with their pet and put their pet in an uncomfortable situation.

We need to teach our children to respect dogs’ nature. As parents, it is our job to lead by example.

In addition, when a dog is overly humanized, their basic needs are often subconsciously ignored. This can then result in behavioral problems as it restricts them to do what they want.

6.) Not Neutering Your Male Dog

There is consistent evidence that neutering male dogs is associated with a reduced risk of a dog bite.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, an unneutered male is 2.6x more likely to bite than a neutered one.

AVMA- A Community Approach to Dog Bite Prevention

7.) Stereotyping Dogs by Breed 

Consciously or not, people love stereotypes. They make quick decisions and judgments based on these stereotypes. You may have heard stories about Pit Bulls attacking people and Labs and Goldens being nice and gentle. 

Let’s be fair! Most dogs aren’t inherently dangerous, exceptionally friendly, or aggressive. Just like humans, every dog is an individual. All dogs, regardless of the breed, need proper training, appropriate socialization, and a loving home.

If you think just because it is a labrador retriever that your child is yanking the tail of, that you have no need to worry, you are wrong. Any dog pushed to a point will bite. The dog bite I had as a child, which caused over 3000 stitches to my face was from a lab, and a family pet. Dog bites to children can happen from any breed.

8.) Not Considering Where You Get Your Dog From

You need a well-behaved and gentle dog if you have young kids. If you plan on going through a breeder to find your new family member, you must ensure that you are buying from reputable breeders. Good breeders take special care to breed their dogs for good health and temperament. The best way to get to know a breeder is to meet in person, which might be at their kennel or in their home.

The breeder should have performed health and temperament testing. Dogs that are bred improperly or raised improperly are more likely to show signs of fear, aggression, and anxiety. 

9.) Trying to Capture “Cute” Photos With Your Child and Your Dog

Throughout social media, you will see pictures parents post of their child riding on top of the dog, or face-to-face kissing the dog, or simply of the dog being held by their child, and for anyone who has an eye for canine body language, it is easy to see how unhappy that dog is. Don’t put your children at risk and don’t put your dog in an uncomfortable spot just for a photoshoot.

Instead, try taking some shots of your child training your dog or playing a game with your dog. They can make for just as adorable pictures without the risk. Plus you are better modeling the behavior you want from both your child and your dog when you are not taking photos.

10.) Not Sharing Your Experience When Something Does Happen

The more I share my story about my own bite experience as a child and my goal to educate parents and kids on the importance of pet safety and responsible pet ownership for kids, the more people have begun to approach me and share their own stories of dog bites. What has become very apparent is that parents who have children who have been bitten by their family dogs, which research shows us is much more common than we think, carry a sense of both guilt and shame for what has happened to their child, and for that reason seldom talk publically about their experience.

The problem with parents not wanting to talk about their family’s experience with a dog bite is that it does nothing to help prevent it from happening to others in the future. We need to bring awareness to the fact that pet safety education for kids is an important part of having a family dog and that armed with the education we can prevent bites from happening.

So please, to help prevent another child from being bitten, help bring awareness. You are not alone. Your kids don’t need to go through this alone. And another bite can be prevented with the proper knowledge and education.

What to do when a dog bites a child?

If your child is bitten by a dog, hers is what you should do:

  • Stay calm and calm your child.
  • If your child’s skin has been broken, wash the area under cold running water.
  • Apply an antiseptic medicine and cover the dog bite with a clean dressing.
  • Take the child to the doctor. Your doctor may suggest a tetanus booster and antibiotics.
  • If a piece of flesh has been bitten off, immediately call an ambulance.
  • Control the bleeding of your child by applying firm pressure to the wound. Apply a sterile dressing or clean cloth until the ambulance arrives.
  • If your child is pale or drowsy, lie them down and raise their legs on a pillow or folded blanket. 
  • Do not give your child any food or water immediately.

Is your family ready for a dog?

Getting a dog as a family member is a big decision. It will certainly have an impact on your life. You and your family have your routines and your dog is going to need to get along with those.  Before bringing home a pet, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can you afford to own a dog in terms of food, dog toys, training, vaccination, and vet fees? 
  • Is every family member on board with the idea of having a dog?
  • Do you have children or another pet at home and if so, will you still be able manage to having a puppy? Will your kids or pets accept this new housemate?
  • Does your house have enough space needed for a dog? 
  • Dogs require a lot of time, attention, and training. How much time can you and your child dedicate to your dog each day? 
  • Dogs can’t be left alone for extended periods. Will he have company at home if you and your family are away for long periods? 
  • Dogs require a commitment for the duration of their entire life. Can you and your child commit to a long-term relationship with your furry member?
  • Will you and your child be able to comfort your puppy while they adjust to the new home and environment?
  • Are you and your kids ready to deal with all kinds of duties and messy stuff involved in dog parenting?

If you have answered yes to most of these questions, then you are ready to bring a dog to your family.

Final thoughts

Before you adopt a dog, it is important to take a look at your lifestyle and how accommodating it would be for a dog’s needs. As a dog owner, you must understand their exercise requirements, diet, grooming, and training needs. 

If you don’t have much time to devote to your puppy, consider getting him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old.

If you want your dog to get along well with kids, you must start socialization early and reward them for good behavior. Remember, comfort, affection, and care are all crucial for dogs. You just have to be a little more flexible and creative! 

Most importantly, make sure your children are educated in pet safety and responsible pet ownership. It is more often your child’s behavior that will put them at risk of a dog bite rather than the dog’s behavior. Wagging Right provides virtual and in-person family-orientated dog training to help teach kids pet safety and responsible pet ownership. Learn More.

If you have any comments, please do let us know. We would be happy to hear from you. 

3 thoughts on “10 Mistakes Parents Make That Explain Why Dog Bites Child”

  1. Great information every parent should read prior to getting a dog. Accidents are so easy to avoid with a few easy steps. You’ve perfectly illustrated what should be done to avoid a disaster and have a happy home with human and fur kids alike. I hope this helps enlighten many on these simple steps.

  2. What about situations where the child is actually doing NOTHING but walking around in the same room near the dog. My 2.5 year son is extremely gentle with all of our animals but our 5 y/o Aussie has always been aggressive with small kids. Our son can’t even walk past the dog without him growling. The dog won’t move out of the way to get out of the situation, he stands his ground and growls. He has snapped twice, the most recent time my son was simply walking around the kitchen (not running, not touching or even really looking at the dog). I’m leaning towards rehoming our dog with a family that doesn’t have young kids. I just feel like since this has been as issue since we got him as a puppy, that it’s going to be an issue until our son is older.

    1. It is time to get a professional assessment of his behavior. Unfortunately how a puppy is raised (prior to you bringing him home) can play a part in this. A professional needs to see your dog and your dogs interactions with your family to properly make that assessment.

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