Facts about the animal kingdom

Why do Dogs Attack Children?

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. July 17, 2017
Why do Dogs Attack Children?

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Statistics show that a very high percentage of dog attacks are involving children, approximately 80% of total cases. Do not overlook this figure, as there is a reason for it.

In this Animalwised article we will discuss the main reasons dogs become aggressive towards children, how we can avoid attacks and other important details we must keep in mind. Read on to discover why dogs attack children.

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  1. Communication errors
  2. Unpleasant experiences
  3. How to prevent a dog from attacking a child
  4. What to do if a dog bites a child

Communication errors

As a general rule adults should always monitor the interaction between children and dogs. Otherwise there is a high probability that poor communication will end with a bite, which can be very serious depending on the size of the dog.

People tend to trust dogs a lot if they have never shown signs of aggression. However, dogs speak in a specific body language that even adults may not know how to interpret. So, what then happens to children?

Children are still experiencing cognitive abilities (such as perception, attention, or memory), which will not develop fully until about six years of age, making them especially vulnerable to misunderstandings.

Before an attack, the dog sends us a series of warning signals (calming signals), such as showing their teeth or growling. All this tells us that the dog feels uncomfortable enough to attack. These physical signs are obvious to us, but not to children, who believe that this is a game.

Negative behaviors in children towards dogs:

  • Staring
  • Pouncing on the dog
  • Pulling their tail
  • Pulling their ears
  • Pestering them (not leaving them alone)
  • Not letting them rest
  • Shouting
  • Hugging tightly
  • Putting their fingers in their mouth or ears
Why do Dogs Attack Children? - Communication errors

Unpleasant experiences

Children are often very invasive, something that not all dogs are able to understand and respect. For them they are "small beings" who scream and can even get hurt. This is when a negative association begins to take place.

If in addition to the child acting in an invasive way we should not scold the dog for growling, (remember that they are trying to communicate theoir discomfort). This provokes learning by association, also known as classic conditioning. The dog begins to associate the child as something unpleasant and even as something bad, increasing their stress levels and even causing them to flee, and if that is not possible, bite.

Why do Dogs Attack Children? - Unpleasant experiences

How to prevent a dog from attacking a child

To prevent the above situations it is essential to always be present in the same room when the child and the dog are together. It does not matter if we have full confidence in our 10-year-old dog, sometimes a finger in the eye, age problems (such as arthrosis) or a moment of hyperexcitement can trigger an unexpected response. Let's not allow anything to happen by monitoring interactions.

From a certain age, we can begin to explain to a child that dogs can bite and do a lot of damage. Teach them to identify the postures of appeasement such as turning away, turning the head, licking and rotating the entire body. By educating our little ones we will make living together very positive. We will also teach them to respect the dog's toys, food or sofa, items that dog's can be very protective over.

Why do Dogs Attack Children? - How to prevent a dog from attacking a child

What to do if a dog bites a child

Aggressiveness is a very serious behavior problem, especially if it is directed towards children, in which case it becomes a public health problem. We must completely avoid contact between dog and child and the immediate solution will be to find a temporary home for the dog until we can go to a specialist.

Keeping a dog at home that growls or attacks children can lead to severe aggression, so it is not recommended to do any type of therapy or treatment on our own, without the supervision of the specialist.

Why do Dogs Attack Children? - What to do if a dog bites a child

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Why do Dogs Attack Children?