Why Do Dogs Bite?

A new study reveals half of all children under the age of 12 have been bitten by a dog; most of the bites came from a dog with whom the child was acquainted, such as a family pet or friend’s dog. While the vast majority of dog bites are provoked and non-fatal, it is estimated 79 percent of all dog bites occur on children. Interestingly, the study could not find a correlation between breed and bite incidents, noting that even small breeds have caused fatalities. The key takeaway from this type of study is that education and supervisions are incredibly important in preventing children from being bitten by a familiar dog.

A “false sense of safety” was the cause of most of the dog bites analyzed in the study. In other words, for many households, the assumption that there was no hostility between the child and the pet overruled the necessity to supervise the children. However, children have a tendency to unknowingly cause animals stress and anxiety that can result in dog aggression. Regardless of the child’s familiarity with the pet, they need to be supervised as they are less likely to notice warning signs from the dog before they are bitten.

Mom Supervising Children and Dog - sgplaw.com - Shutterstock

A dog can express anxiety and lash out in fear for many reasons, but most of these reactions are caused by human actions, including:

  • Staring the dog in the eyes
  • Holding down the dog
  • Hitting or kicking the dog to make them move
  • Making sudden movements perceived as threatening

As a supervisor for dog-child interactions, warning signs you should look for are:

  • Lowering of head or staring
  • Teeth exposure
  • Spitting/snapping motions
  • Stiffened back and/or tail
  • Backing up slowly or lunging jerks

If you see any of the above reactions, dog trainer Victoria Stillwell recommends that you do not punish the dog for its behavior because it’s exhibiting warning signs. Next time the pet may forego the warning signs and immediately react. You should, however, separate the child from the dog as quickly as possible. Let the pet cool down and recollect its environmental awareness.

When a family decides to partake in pet ownership of a canine, it is their responsibility to be educated on all facets of caring for the pet, including dog bite prevention. The Arizona Animal Welfare League & SPCA offers obedience training and other great classes to help prevent dog bite situations.

A few more reminders to help prevent dog bites:

  • When expecting guests, keep your dog restrained but with visibility of the door. This allows them to see who has arrived and relax without showing aggressive or overexcited behavior in their direct company
  • Do not allow them to run rampant when your mail carrier is on your street. It is your liability to keep the pet contained, safe from harm and prevented from harming others
  • Teach your children why your pet is restrained at certain times, so they do not haphazardly release them at inappropriate times.
  • Use a safety harness and leash whenever going for a walk for easy control and quick maneuvers when guiding them away from aggressive situations
  • Put up Beware of Dog signs on your property to warn others that there is a protective dog on the premises. This could help relieve liability depending on state law, but you would need to prove that your dog was properly restrained within your property with a well-established and visible warning sign if an intruder dog bite occurs

SGP Law offers dog bite injury lawyer assistance and representation for any dog bite incident in or near Mesa, Arizona. We are well-versed in canine laws as well as pet ownership liability.  Contact us to get a free case evaluation for this and other injuries sustained from accidents.