Crating your kids is one proven way to make sure a dog won’t bite them. (My now teenage nephews are going to kill me for posting this photo.)
Plenty of evidence shows that large breed, un-neutered male dogs that are chained and treated irresponsibly are the most likely to cause serious and fatal bites. So logic flows that if you have sterilized your dog and treat it responsibly, you’re off to a great start. But that’s just a start. Dogs have very few ways to tell you that they’re scared. They have specific body language and teeth. Every dog has a bite threshold, and you can do quite a few things to minimize the risks.
Introductions are really important. Train your child to behave around their dog so they:
- ask permission before touching a strange dog, “be a tree”, remain calm and avoid eye contact
- don’t squeal, run, take the dog’s stuff including food and toys, startle the dog when sleeping, give neck hugs
There are great online resources for parents and educators. Here are some particularly good ones:
For older children, involve them in your dog’s formal training program. And, teach your children not to tease a chained or tethered dog. That’s one of the best ways to turn a good dog into an aggressive one.
There are also lots of things you can do to help your dog too:
- Pick the right pet for your family. They’ve got different energy levels and emotional drivers. Make sure you research what you’re getting before you bring one home.
- Socialize them to people of all ages when young. The more types of people your dog is exposed to, the better. Young. Old. Large. Small. Men. Women. Bearded. Bald. Everyone.
- Train your dog. The canine good citizen test outlines 10 manners that your dog should comfortably do. Use this as a benchmark for your dog’s training routine.
- Spay/neuter your pet to calm the hormones down.
- Watch for warning signs from any dog –hackles are raised (hair goes up on its back), stiff posturing, lip smacking, growling, backing away, half-moon eyes or a hard stare.
- Always supervise children around dogs. Dogs are animals, not people and never forget that.
- Train your dog to react calmly around strangers especially the milk man, postal workers, meter readers, and others who show up regularly.
- Teach a soft bite so if they ever do feel the need to bite, it’ll be a warning rather than a serious incident.
- Protect your pet from harms way. Don’t let anyone do anything to your dog that could make it become scared, then aggressive.
- If your dog has bitten, train them and manage them so they’re not put into a position to bite again.
When you take on the responsibility of a dog, you’re morally and legally responsible for its actions. Learn what you can, train your dog, and teach your children to behave around them so you can minimize your risks.