How to Stop Your Dog From Biting Kids

dogbiteskidIt is every dog owner’s worst nightmare. When a dog bites a child, it is the single worst offense a domesticated dog can execute. And no matter how out-of-control the child is, no matter how violent he is with the dog and no matter how wildly he approaches the dog, the child will never be blamed. Not in a community with other children and certainly not in a court of law. This is why if your dog bit a child or several children, it is of utmost importance that you as a responsible dog owner, take immediate action to prevent this from happening in the future.

Do no fear. In this article, I will give you one of the only proven methods to end this unacceptable behavior.

The Cause

If your dog bites everyone including kids, than your dog is simply mentally unstable, has weak nerves, bad genetics or may have went through a traumatic experience as a puppy making him feel defensive against everyone he meets. Another possibility is that he feels weaker and more vulnerable in his old age and chooses to keep every stranger he meets at bay. But if your dog’s biting is exclusive to young kids, it can be the result of several different things.

Usually, a dog who discriminates his aggression against kids does so because of the ‘in-your-face’ behavior children often display. Kids will often approach your dog in a wild manner. Head on collisions in an attempt to pet him are not uncommon with children. Kids will often pull his ears, his hair, and his skin, the same way they will with their parents. And while many ultra-strong breeds like American Bulldogs, Pit-Bulls or Great Danes will barely even notice a four-year-old pulling their ears, a medium sized Shiba Inu or miniature Maltese might suffer from the pain. It is at this point the dog learns to put his guard up. And the next time he sees one of those trouble making children, his defensive system is automatically raised. The dog remembers how wild, unpredictable and harmful the child can be and so he readies himself for a violent confrontation.

At this stage, the dog will often warn the child with a growl. The growl is largely misunderstood as aggression but it is actually a last ditch effort at diplomacy before the attack. The dog uses the growl to warn off potential attackers. But if diplomacy fails and the child doesn’t heed to the dog’s warning, the confrontation will often end with a bite. At this point, the dog learns that biting the child will fend off the wild, unpredictable ear-puller. When you think about it, the dog’s approach is quite rational. They see pain is coming their way, try to fend it off with a warning growl, and then bite as a last resort to protect themselves. Unfortunately, society at large is not so forgiving. This is why if your dog is a child biter, you should take the following steps.

The Solution

Before I get into the solution, I want to make an analogy in an effort to drive the point home. Imagine a woman who is socially awkward. She gets nervous and anxious at parties where she is expected to meet new people or perhaps get approached by men she is attracted to. So she downs a few cocktails. Although it may not be ideal, it takes the edge off and allows her to open up and be herself a little more. She goes out twice a week and repeats this process. After a year, the notion of meeting new people at a party and letting go becomes an afterthought and the alcohol (or at least the same amount of alcohol) is no longer needed. The solution to your dog’s child-directed aggression has a similar approach.

Like the socially awkward woman, the ideal solution to dog-on-child aggression would be for the dog to be exposed to more children without the fear of the child encroaching on his territory or inflicting pain. And the best way to set up this situation is via anti-anxiety medication from a veterinary animal behaviorist. Some recommended medications for dogs who fit the profile include the pharmaceuticals.

Fluoxetine is effective with many dogs, especially those that have an impulse control element like aggression directed at children. This will likely calm your child-aggressive dog’s nerves when approached by a kid he would otherwise bite. It numbs the nerves and re-exposes the dog to a situation where in the past he would react with aggression but in the present he would express neither the will nor the desire to bite. In other words, drugs like Fluoxetine. Buspirone and Clomipramine are the dog’s ‘alcohol’.

It should be noted that any dosage of medication should be consulted with your veterinarian. And although medication are not a quick fix, accompanied with social desensitization exercises with a trainer who specializes in aggression, they are one of the only long term treatments for child directed aggression.

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David Sidman is a certified professional K-9 trainer with a specialization in training military and Police working dogs. Sidman qualified as an I.D.F explosive detection dog handler and was certified in Police K-9 Training by the Eastern States Working dog Association (ESWDA)

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