If your child has ever suffered a dog bite, then you were likely quick to blame its owner or other responsible parties for a canine’s actions. Certainly, owners, dog walkers, and people who work at shelters and rescue groups are responsible for keeping the animals in their care from harming anyone.
However, if you have a child, you know that sometimes kids do things that unintentionally provoke a dog that most adults avoid. Dogs don’t typically bite or attack for no reason. Researchers at one veterinary behavioral clinic discovered that most dog bites happen to children for one of three reasons.
Dogs were protecting their territory
Anyone who’s watched their dog pile all of their toys into their bed and guard the area like Fort Knox understands how territorial these animals can be. Young children often don’t realize that getting too close to a dog’s toys, food, bed or any place they consider their territory (sometimes the whole house) can cause them to react aggressively. The same can happen if someone gets too close to their favorite person.
Dogs were sick or in pain
It’s only natural for a child to want to pet or lie down next to a dog that’s not feeling well. However, sick or injured dogs can react aggressively when someone touches them.
As descendants of wild animals, dogs have a survival instinct that causes them to hide pain or discomfort that could leave them vulnerable to attack. Therefore, a child may have no idea that a dog isn’t feeling well.
Dogs were anxious
When dogs aren’t used to being around young children (and sometimes even when they are), the sudden, quick movements and loud noises of a little one can make them nervous and more prone to bite. Some dogs have more overall anxiety than others. Many become anxious if they’re in unfamiliar circumstances or with people that they don’t know.
As we noted, dog owners have a responsibility to keep their pets from harming others. When they don’t, the owner (or their insurance company) has a responsibility to cover victims’ expenses and other damages. However, since not being bitten in the first place is the best scenario, it’s wise to do what we can to protect ourselves and our kids.