Let's Talk Dog: Understanding your dog's stress signals

Dog Bite Prevention Tips


The 3 most Important things to teach your kids

  1. Dogs Don't like Hugs & Kisses - Teach your kids not to hug or kiss a dog on the face. Hugging the family dog or face-to-face contact are common causes of bites to the face. Instead, teach kids to scratch the dog on the chest or the side of the neck.
  2. Be a Tree if a Strange Dog Approaches - Teach kids to stand still, like a tree. Trees are boring and the dog will eventually go away. This works for strange dogs and anytime the family dog gets too frisky or becomes aggressive.
    (see image to right)
  3. Never Tease a Dog - and never disturb a dog that's sleeping, eating or protecting something.

The 2 Most Important Things Parents Can Do

  1. Supervise - Don't assume your dog is good with kids. If a toddler must interact with your dog, you should have your hands on the dog too. Even if your dog is great with kids and has never bitten - why take a chance?
  2. Train the dog - Take your dog to obedience classes where positive-reinforcement is used. Never pin, shake, choke, hold the dog down or roll the dog over to teach it a lesson. Dogs treated this way are likely to turn their aggression on weaker family members. Involve older children in training the family dog while supervising. Don't allow children to punish the dog. Condition the dog to enjoy the presence and actions of children using positive experiences.

The 3 Most Important Things Dog Owners Can Do

  1. Spay or Neuter Your Dog - Neutered pets are calmer, healthier and less likely to be aggressive. Neutering prevents unwanted dogs that may end up in shelters or in less than ideal conditions where they may grow up to be poorly socialized or aggressive.
  2. Condition Your Dog for the World - Give your puppy lots of new positive experiences. Train using positive methods i.e. clicker training.
  3. Supervise Your Dog - Supervise your dog at all times around children. Do not allow children to hug and kiss the dog. If visiting children are bothering your dog, put the dog away or send the children home.


Prevent Bites over the Holidays

The holidays are especially stressful for dogs due to changes in routine and the comings and going of visitors. Many dog bites happen at this time of year. When visiting a house with a dog, children should be taught not to approach the dog (even if the dog has been friendly on other occasions). If the dog comes to them they should stand still like a tree and let the dog sniff. Only if the the dog is wagging and panting and coming to them for attention, and parent and dog owners are supervising and have given permission, should a child touch the dog. Dog owners should gauge their dog's reaction to visitors. If the dog is overly excited, barking or growling, cowering away, trying to hide or otherwise showing signs of anxiety or aggression, the dog should be kept separate from visiting children for the ENTIRE DURATION of the child's visit. The dog should have its own place in a crate or another room with toys, a bone to chew on and its special bed or blanket so that it can be happy and comfortable and away from guests. Even dogs who seem happy with visitors should never be alone in the room with visiting children. No preschooler, toddler or baby should be allowed to be near your dog unless you personally also have your hands on the dog and can prevent face to face contact between child and dog and can prevent the child from hugging or otherwise bothering
the dog.

Dogs should not be allowed to greet visitors at the door. This is for the safety of the dog and the visitors. Keep the dogs in separate room or crate until the visitors are settled and then allow the dog to say hello if appropriate. If you are not sure about your dog, then leave him confined or keep him on a leash. Make sure that the dog associates visitors with something good for the dog, such as special treats or a stuffed bone.

If you do perceive a problem between your dog and visiting children - THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO WORK ON IT. It is not reasonable to use visiting children to help train your dog. Take preventative measures to ensure that your dog does not have the opportunity to bite and once the holiday season is over seek the help of a dog behavior specialist who uses positive reinforcement methods to solve the dog's problem.

Here is a summary of Doggone Safe's family gathering tips:

Family gatherings at a relative's house are the source of fond memories for many. The relative's dog may not enjoy these events as much as the rest of the family. Noise, confusion and changes in routine are stressful for dogs. Even a normally calm and docile pet may become agitated enough to bite under the extreme circumstances of a boisterous family celebration. Supervision may be lax if each adult thinks that another is watching the children. Children are the most likely victims of dog bites in this situation.

  • Put the dog in his crate with a favorite chew toy, at least during the most hectic times - guests arriving and leaving as well as dinner preparation and serving.
  • Assign one adult to be in charge of the dog, to watch for signs of stress and protect from unwanted attention from children.
  • Assign one adult to supervise each baby or toddler with no other tasks expected.
  • If you have multiple dogs, consider kenneling them, crating them or keeping them in another room during large gatherings.
  • Supervise at all times.