"I never thought this would happen..." : when your dog bites your child

The vast majority of dog bites to children come from their own family dog. The physical & emotional fallout from a bite can be overwhelming and parents are often left with a profound sense of guilt. These bites often happen because parents don't understand their dog as well as they think they do and/or they trust to luck that things will be fine.

This article illustrates well the misunderstandings that lead to dog bites and the overwhelming guilt parents feel after one.

"..he...became a savage..."

No, he didn't. He was being a dog. Every dog, regardless of temperament, breed, size etc has the capacity to bite.

"..I don't know what happened..."

The answer to keeping toddlers safe around dogs is supervision, supervision, supervision. If you're not there you can't supervise. Toddlers & dogs should never be left unattended, even for a second. I know.... it's sometimes difficult or inconvenient or annoying but it's the golden rule. If you can't supervise; separate.

"..he has...bitten in the past"

A dog with a bite history and a toddler with limited motor skills and no judgement skills is a dangerous combination. You need to honestly and non-emotionally consider whether you are capable of keeping everyone safe. If your dog is going to continue living in your home then bombproof separation and supervision is the only answer. But even then serious thought should be given as to whether this is fair on the child, the dog or you (that level of vigilance is exhausting).

"..I never in a million years expected it..."

People never do. They never expect their dog to be the one to bite. They assume that their dogs and kids will get along well and have a great relationship. And that can lead people to let their guard down and become reactive instead of proactively setting their dog & kids up for success.

"..I'm not a bad mother.."

No...you're not. You made a mistake that had horrible consequences for your child, your dogs and for you. People don't know what they don't know and almost everyone tries to do their best for their children and their dogs based on the knowledge that they have. But part of being a responsible parent is recognising & acknowledging potential dangers and taking steps to minimise them....not simply trusting to luck that things will be fine.

"..this is breaking my heart.."

The guilt felt by parents after a dog bite, especially from the family dog, can be overwhelming. Guilt that they allowed their child to be in an unsafe situation, guilt that they allowed their child to continue with unsafe behaviours, guilt that they didn't understand their dog as well as they thought they did, guilt that the dog is being euthanised or re-homed, guilt that it was preventable. Guilt....lots of it.

If your family includes children and dogs don't just assume everything will be OK. Take active steps to make it OK. There are loads of great resources on dog/child safety online or professional trainers with expertise in this field to advise you. Do your homework. Seek advice. Don't trust to luck and run the risk of becoming wise with hindsight.

Happy Training x

If you're in the Glasgow area and would benefit from in-person advice on dog/child safety please get in touch. If you're further afield in the UK telephone/skype consultations are also available.