My dog bit my son today*……

jessmax3Yes MY dog, a dog who has been with me for more than ten years (got him when he was 3). A dog you’d never guess in your wildest dreams would ever bite anyone, let alone my 2 year old son. Ten years ago, before I knew better, this dog put up very patiently with my youngest daughter who was then a toddler. She’d sit on him, lay on him, tug an ear or his tail now and then, and he’d just go about his day seemingly unbothered by it.

She would do the very things we see posted in pictures and videos on Facebook, Twitter etc. on a daily basis. All those seemingly harmless “cute” photos and videos.

Ten years ago I would’ve thought these photos and videos were cute too. Some days now I wish I could go back to just seeing cute photos and videos rather than reading what the dog is really saying and thinking “I hope I never see them in a tragic news story ‘Family dog mauls toddler”

Ten years ago I may have even jumped on the bandwagon of people defending these photos/videos when someone dare say the dog is stressed and the child is in a potential bite situation.

It doesn’t seem to matter how nicely the person points out the danger, or what credentials they have, the backlash that ensues can get downright nasty. It leaves you with a sinking feeling, you were only trying to help prevent something bad.

When people point out that “Hey, the dog doesn’t look happy, here’s what I see” it is NOT a personal attack. It’s meant to help people avoid their child being bitten and dog from losing his home or worse. The observations made are base on years of research and statistics, not something the person made up to pick on you.

Maybe you get lucky, maybe your dog never does go on to bite a child. (knock on wood). But perhaps the next person who sees that picture or video and decides it’s cute, cool or O.K. isn’t that lucky with their child. When we post photos like that people think what’s happening is harmless.

Did you know that in U.S. it’s estimated that half of all children will be bitten by the time they turn 12 years old? Most bites come from the family dog or a dog the child knows. Many of these bites occur to the child’s face, either due to the size of the child, the child hugging the dog or the child getting in the dogs face. I can’t be the only one who’s seen a child trying to have a staring contest with a dog. jessandmax

As a parent I would’ve been happy to have someone say “Hey, your dog is trying to tell you he’s not comfortable” when I let my daughter do those things ten years ago, before I knew better.

I would never want to put my child or dog in harms way.

Now, knowing whatย  know, it makes me feel bad for not listening to my dog all those years ago and am grateful to be one of the ones that didn’t have something bad happen. I’m sure if I looked back today, I’d see those subtle signs of “I’m not comfortable with this, help me”. The signs can be so very subtle, and can be easily missed. When the subtle signs go ignored and the dog finally has enough and bites, the people will say “I don’t know what happened he’s always been so good with the kids, he just bit out of the blue” It doesn’t happen that way. Everyone can learn what those subtle signs are, once you do they become like big neon flashing signs.

Those signs never turn off once you know them, ever, not even for a second no matter how hard you try to pull the plug on them for even just a little bit.

This is one of the hardest things I’ve written, because even knowing what I know, my dog bit my son.

It happened in a flash. My son and I were in the living room sitting on the couch, my dog was in the hallway behind the baby gate. I got up to grab something and when I did my son got up as well. Before I knew it he was at the gate. I didn’t think much of it, I’d be right there to guide the interaction in a just a second. They’d be fine for that second, my dog has always been fine.

Just a second was all it took. My dog let out a deep growl and bit my son’s hand. Thank the heavens that my son was able to recoil his hand and shake it off with nothing more than a Mommy, Owie and a confused look on his face.

No, my 2 year old didn’t move faster than my now thirteen year old dog can bite, my dog has great bite inhibition. I am so very thankful for that.

My point is don’t think it could never happen to you, if someone points something out, remember it is not a personal attack.

Take it for what it is, someone is just looking out for the safety and well being of everyone involved in that photo or video.

We’re always learning and just because you didn’t see those neon signs before doesn’t make you a bad person.

*This incident took place a few weeks ago. Both my son and my dog are doing just fine, although managed much more these days. I no longer allow my dog to hang out in that hallway, he feels cornered there. I’m not sure how much longer my old boy will be with us, but we’re certainly going to keep him happy, safe and content for the time we have left with him. HPIM0730 007

For more information on children and dogs you can also visit Family Paws has many great resources for families with kids and dogs including many great webinars such as Crawling Babies and Conflicted Dogs

63 thoughts on “My dog bit my son today*……

  1. Reblogged this on MyPositiveDogTrainingBlog and commented:
    Reblogging this excellent post. People need to realize ANY dog can bite. It doesn’t happen “out of the blue”. Learn to read the signs that your dog is feeling uncomfortable or stressed and do not let a child and a dog be put in the wrong situation.

    • C.W. says:

      It would be really helpful for people who are naive to the signs to see what they are in this blog post. I, for example, don’t know what in particular you’re talking about. Consider giving examples. thank you in advance!

      • We will be doing just that over the next few days. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Stephanie says:

        You stress through the whole article on how important the signs are yet do not tell what those signs are. Then when someone calls you on it, you state will be posting the signs over the next few days. That is horrible! You are essentially using this story of your child being bitten as click bait to get people to keep coming back to your blog. I will use Google to learn these signs rather than reward you for this.

      • That is NOT what I had done! Really you think I’d use my KID as click bait! Um NO! The article was long enough, any longer and I’d bore the reader and they wouldn’t read the signs anyway.

        Also, if you follow my FB page I post these signs ad nauseum, it’s nothing new.

        Follow me or not, at the very least I got you looking for signs of impending BITE. So even if you never visit this blog again, I still accomplished my mission. Education.

    • Thank you for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Sheri Green says:

      Hello Limda I was wondering if you could help me? I have 3 Yorkies and I’ve been having a hard time with potting training. Ever since they were puppies I have used a potty pad ( still do ) and they go outside on a regular basis. Even with going outside sometimes my second oldest C.J. Will hold then come in and pee, I think personally with him it’s an anxiety issue…Please Help!

  2. Jamie Porras says:

    Thanks for sharing this, so thankful the outcome wasn’t worse! I’d really appreciate learning more about the signs to watch for however. Thanks!

    • Jessica Mitchell says:

      lip licking, yawning, moving away, “moon eye” where you can see the white part of their eye, panting, slow blinking, still or stiff body language, turning the head away. If these are ignored or have failed to work there is growling, staring into the childs face, lip curling followed by the next step up which is air snapping, or in this case an actual bite but no blood drawn because its still a warning bite, teeth bared and louder growling, if this is ignored then comes the full on bite, still might not draw blood but one that does will follow if not.

      There are a lot of stages a dog will go through before they actually bite, just they are not noticed by us because we rely too much on vocal contact or we think its wrong for our dogs to growl at things – hey, the dog is talking with a vocal sound and what do we do? tell it off!!! So growls are a serious warning they are not happy, take heed and listen to them even if you missed all the subtle body signals, just move them away – give them the out they need or move the child away whichever is the easiest option

    • We will be writing about them over the next few days. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Ev Sharp says:

        Thank you. I’m one of those who can see the signs but hesitate to put a damper on the humor. I’m sad your family went through this, glad that things are fine, and really really glad you’ll be sharing the signs later on!

  3. Crazy. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Amie says:

    I sometimes wonder how to tell people their dogs are dangerously unhappy. I’ve attempted in the past and been graciously shrugged off. One photo very recently still makes me queasy, and yet I didn’t say anything, and won’t. I don’t know how to handle this in a way that will be heard as intended – an attempt to protect your child, your dog (and sometimes, in the case of pit bulls, even my own dogs) from the backlash of a bite that could have been prevented….

  5. tbdogs says:

    Posted to my Facebook Page Two Brown Dogs

  6. Ann Kurtz says:

    It would be helpful to know what happened that the dog did bite? It seems odd that a dog who was used to children would bite because the child was standing at the gate? I understand that any dog can bite but it seems like there is more to this story that might help make that point.

    • There are actually quite a few factors that likely went into this. All of which will be explored in future blog posts.

      But the key point is, ANY dog can have a bad day.

    • Barbara says:

      My service dog put up with a lot of “drive-by” petting and confrontation the first time we went to Disney World. By the end of that vacation, he was lunging at random small children from a distance, barking at them, and rawr-rawr-rawring at them. Those particular children were not near him, but his reaction to small children at that point was to warn them before they got any closer. I finally made the connection, and starting interfering when children came close: “He”s working.” “Don’t pet him.” “Don’t touch him.” And gently pushing or steering the child away.

      The next visit to Disney World 2 years later went much better. First of all, children and parents were more likely to know what a service dog is and know to leave him alone. I watched my dog for signs of stress, and removed him from the situation or from the park immediately. I put him on a down-stay and fed him treats so he could watch comfortably from a distance. Most of all, I was much more vigilant when children approached him. I don’t remember seeing any of those aggressive-appearing warning barks or rawr-rawr-rawrs.

      Even for a highly trained and gentle dog, children can be scary, unpredictable, and stress-inducing. You avoid tragedy by training both dog and child.

      • LoriBelle says:

        My almost 9 year old dog has never liked children. However, because she is so beautiful, they always want to pet her. I just stop at a distance when I see them looking at her and tell them (and their parents) that she is afraid of children and it’s fine for them to speak to her from where they are, but please don’t try to pet her. The children most of the time seem to get this faster than the adults. I try to never set my baby up to fail. Not that we’re perfect, but we do our best. She has never bitten anyone, but she sure has a mean growl and snarl that deters adults.

      • Awe sorry to hear this. Great that the kids listen though. Kids can be easy to work with, they do seem to “get it” when you explain on terms they can understand.

        If you were in my area I’d be happy to help with this. If you aren’t I may be able to suggest someone who can where you are.

  7. Donna Morgan says:

    dogs are just like people, they can have off days too for what ever reason and this should be respected. thanks for sharing and sending hugs xx

  8. Teresa says:

    Thank you for sharing such an intimate moment with all of us. You are amazing mother and dog guardian. What a wonderful balance, which is not so easily achieved in most pet dog homes. Doggone Safe applauds you as Joan Orr shared your post! It was an honour and privilege to read your post.

  9. Sharon Betts says:

    posted to our club Facebook page – Northeast Regional Leonberger Club. Thank you. I always feel you need to be even more diligent with the elderly dogs who may have more aches and pains and not as much patience.

  10. Very well written from your heart. People have got to open their eyes and minds to the fact that children MUST be taught how to behave and interact with dogs and all animals, in order for everyone to coexist happily.

  11. Debbie Hendel says:

    Thank you for your posting. It’s true……any dog can bite. It’s important to recognize body language in any animal. Glad that your son and dog are all right.

    • Exactly any dog can bite, I nod my head when I hear people say my dog doesn’t bite, well does he have teeth? Then he can bite. Dogs use their teeth as well like we use our fingers they pick things up, they play as well with other dogs with their mouths and they use a inhibition which is the dogs control pressure of his mouth.

  12. Thanks for the post, this is so true. I also cringe when I see photod of kids and babies on top of dogs and close to their face and the child is pulling their lips, pulling their ears, etc.
    The the dog pays with his life.

  13. martasyoung says:

    Reblogged this on Barking Up the Right Tree and commented:
    Not to scare people, but to make you awareโ€ฆin the right situation, without reading the stress signals, any dog can bite. Teach your dog bite inhibition (soft mouth) and teach yourself and your children how to read what your dog’s body language is trying to tell you.

  14. Becky Pascua says:

    Amen to that. It happened to me this summer with my two year old grandson. My son and daughter in law allowed him to mercilessly crawl on and over, tug and pull on and then kiss on the head and hug, their aged and toothless and now passed on, chiweenie. She naturally enough, protested but without teeth, it was of little consequence. Not so when grandma brings her 70 lb, normally social and even tempered, boxer/lab mix with her during a babysitting episode. Just like you said, it took only seconds. I changed his diaper, he jumped up and ran to my dog, who was sitting up between the couch and the wall, hands forward.and screaming and the next thing you know, my grandson is sporting.a new puncture.wound on his nostril. It will leave a permanent but minor scar as a reminder of this horrible moment. It could have been much much worse and it could Jane also been prevented. I will hold myself 100% responsible for that exact moment and will be reminded of my failure, every time my eyes rest on that pink little scar on that beautiful little face but my son and his wife’s have some culpability in this as well, for not teaching him to respect the space surrounding a dog. One cannot stress enough, how quickly it can happen.

  15. Helga Eyers says:

    Thank you for sharing, glad your little boy is ok x

  16. K. Jones says:

    I had a dachsund who was 13 & grouchy, bite my 1 year old daughter. I had gotten the dog before I was even married & was told she didn’t like children (she was grown & got her at the pound) which was why she was at the pound. Her previous owners had taken her there. Anyway, my daughter was at the crawling stage, and crawled over to where the dog was lying on the carpet. Don’t know if my daughter startled the dog or what, but she was bitten on her lip & still has the scar to prove it 26 years later. It didn’t take but just a quick second of un-supervision & that was that. We kept the dog, but made sure that she never got the chance to bite our daughter again. I too, was naive about dog’s moods & expressions back then.

  17. Not to play armchair quarterback but if the dog was behind a gate and sequestered in the hallway, were the two of them ever socialized with each other… keeping the dog separate is also a sign to me and siognified by the comment of “allowing the dfog to hang out in hall”…
    . Most “problems” people observe with dogs are often a result of socialization or lack thereof. A 3 year old dog is still in the process of being socialized a 10m year-old is whatever he has grown to be. Once again, not criticizing but offering a suggestion to be sure your dog is integrated into a family setting and nurture the bond; this too could avert any jealousy issues and confrontational issues for the dog.

    • As I’ll discuss in an upcoming blog where I’ll go over this in more detail, my dog, Max had previously been in the room with us. My dogs were let out of the living room and gated (where they could go upstairs or into the big kitchen/dining area) when my son started “hot laps”. After hot laps we sat on the couch.

      There are many reasons to separate at times. No reason the dogs have to be with us every moment. Especially when the rambunctious toddler could potentially fall on them or run into them. Safer to let them out.

      The rest I’ll cover in the new entry, but yes, in general my dogs think toddlers are the bees knees, none of the stuff I allowed 10 years ago happens, the dogs are listened to if they’d like to leave they can leave and children, especially small ones, mean awesome things for them.

  18. Marg says:

    We seem to think that dogsl should know better.Body language is important to understand. I had Shepherd a few years back . He never bit a soul in is 10 yrs. However caution was taken at all time,particularly when children were around.Onenever knows the triggers

  19. carolyn says:

    Very well said and so glad that you are keeping both your son safe and your dear OAP dog cared for.

  20. Susan says:

    It is important to learn your dog’s body language and likes/dislikes. It is also important….critically so….to be aware of your dog’s age and the changes that come with that.

    He may well have been just fine with the first kid. But time takes its toll and as the hips weaken and ache and hearing and vision grow dim, the world gets scarier and harder to handle. Old dogs really need to be and more importantly feel protected, especially around very young kids. They move too fast and have little sense of the effect they have on others as they careen about. Terrifying to an oldster living in a world that is becoming hard to navigate.

    Many bites result from just this dynamic. Not “small child and dog” but “small child and old dog.”

    • Yes! And this why I’d put him behind the gate. I knew toddler zoomies were imminent and he didn’t like them anymore.

      That way Max could do his thing while toddler zoomed around. Health, age, and newish house likely played a big part in why Max felt he couldn’t move from the gate and had to react like he did. Max did have “outs” he could go upstairs, or go just a couple feet and not see us at all, if he continued that path he’d have access to the large kitchen/dining area.

  21. Krissy says:

    Very helpful post. My husband and I have a 3 year old rescue dog Maggie (who we got as a puppy) who has always been somewhat anxious. Her anxiety increased when I got pregnant last December. (She was quite protective of me, even growling at my husband.) We now have a 2 month old baby boy. Thankfully Maggie has been great with the baby so far. She doesn’t seem bothered by him crying or by me holding him. She just sniffs him and goes about her business. However, she is now very protective when we have visitors, and has even growled at my husband when he approaches the baby. Not always, just occasionally. I NEVER leave the baby unattended with Maggie around, and we are working with a behaviorist, but I would love more tips about dogs and toddlers, since I am nervous for when the baby starts moving around.

  22. V.L. says:

    Thank you for writing this. A very good grooming client put her dog down for biting her grandkids. We are sad. She is heartbroken. It was a very sweet dog that never offered to bite us, but we are adults and know how to read a dog and put it at ease. We don’t know what the situation was at home. To many people it is inconceivable that the dog should not be in a room with their child without close supervision. And really, close supervision is not enough if the one doing the supervision does not know dogs.

  23. robin g says:

    I have 2 sweetheart Goldens and a long line of various dog breeds all my life. I am also a professional pet sitter for last gazillion years. Fortunately in all that time I have never had to clean up after a dog bite. Not that circumstances could not have happened. Good training, luck and vigilance helped that record be what it is.
    Two important things:
    I make it a point to not leave young children alone with any of my dogs or client’s dogs. As much as I love my gentle pups and trust them with MY life, little ones are little. Their body signals are different, and signals can get crossed. And having had three children of my own, they can be rude, if untrained in correct dog manners.
    Also: It’s always good to be on the alert to any person to dog contact and know a dog’s body language. I always say: I don’t want my fur baby put in isolation because of a preventable accident.
    Even the sweetest Goldie on the planet can get over exuberant about a flying object or graze in accident on a hand in effort to retrieve. Teaching dogs to have a soft mouth, bite inhibition are also key to preventing accidents. ๐Ÿ™‚ Good article

  24. Jim Crosby says:

    Thanks for being so honest about this incident. Too many people take the “my dog just snapped” denial path and then the dog is dead. Keep up the good work and best to you, your son, and your dog.

  25. Steven fraser says:

    As a dog behaviour trainer i have tried to advise on many occasions on some of the Facebook pages for dogs. However, as you say no matter how polite you are, there is still a negative backlash. It has got to the point where i do not want to tell people anymore and i feel that i am being restricted to educating people. This is a shame as i would like to be advised if my dogs were stressed, luckily now i have studied and gained experience, but i do fear for the majority of peoples dogs who have not.

  26. Justyna says:

    I haven’t gone through all the comments on this post, so I’m not sure if someone expressed a similar opinion before, but did you consider you may have inadvertently caused this attack by isolating your dog while the baby is out? Your first baby had probably too much interaction with the dog and nothing bad ever happened. What changed? Sure, in some cases you could blame it on the dog’s old age, lower pain threshold. But here your son didn’t do anything but walk up to the gate, right? Your dog was probably just guarding “his” territory. And this is a division that you created. You say you can’t look at pictures of babies interacting with dogs. And I can’t watch people completely zoning out their dogs after a baby is born. It’s asking for a disaster! The dog used to have full access to you, but now there’s a competitor who gets your attention over him. How do you then prevent a dog from killing (yes, killing!) the baby the first chance it gets? Of course not every dog would react this way to such a situation. But how do you know how your dog would react? Do you really want to take chances? Do you really believe you can keep the dog and baby separate AT ALL TIMES (the answer is you cannot)?

    • What changed? I grew as a behavior professional.

      I knew my old dog couldn’t handle toddler zoomies which often happen after lunch. Therefore dogs were gated out so my son could do his thing and they could chill.

      At Max’s age, and a newish house he may not have realized all his “outs” from that gate. From that gate he could go upstairs or he could go to the large kitchen/dining/utility room area.

      Max was a dog who LOVED kids and all there antics, but I could see the rambunctious stuff was getting to him. So knowing when that would occur I put all dogs behind the gate for safety.

      For whatever ever reason Max didn’t want to move from the gate that day and reacted.

      It wasn’t long after that Max developed a nose bleed, I got that under control, planned to bring to vet the next morning. He didn’t make the visit.

      In the programs I teach we preach inclusion, but also know your limits. My dog couldn’t handle the zoom zoom of a toddler anymore, so he was left with something fun of his own to do while toddler got his zoomies out.

      I can’t look at pics of babies and dogs because in general those people are putting the child at risk, and in doing so the dog as well.

  27. Julie says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I am always very aware of my dogs’ moods because if I don’t catch that they are stressed, it could be anyone that they bite…including me. My last sheltie was a therapy dog and she was trained to alert me if I didn’t see the signs of stress right off. If we were home, she would go to her crate (her safe area) if we were not home she would walk over and lick me….she was not a licker. My current dog is not trained in that manner so I have to keep a watchful eye for any signs of stress or discomfort. I love my animals and try very hard to keep them from needing to exhibit any aggression. It is nice to read an article from someone who had a good outcome to make others aware of what can happen.

  28. Mariah says:

    Thank you for sharing this story. My Aldo (yellow lab) was always the most lovely dog to everyone until one day he turned on another dog on the sidewalk where we were walking. We found out a couple weeks later that he had bone cancer. He was in pain and being defensive. They are always trying to tell you something….clueing in is the hardest part. We had to put him down about 5 months later at age 11.

  29. so glad you are working with the dog and not putting it to sleep as many other would- old age and pain – being scared could contribute to a bite

    • Max really did nothing wrong, this was MY screw up.

      We did do more management and better supervision after this, i.e. showing him with a goodie he could go down the hall if he wanted.

      I think health played a big part in it too. Max wasn’t with us much longer after I posted this. He left us on his own, which was tipicle Max fashion.

  30. OhMelvin says:

    First off, I’m glad that everyone is OK (albeit shaken up and rethinking some things). Next, thank you for sharing! I can’t tell you how many times I have been at someones house and their dog growls at their child or situation and the owner corrects the dog. I always try to explain that a growl (and so many other signs that people easily miss) is something your dog is doing right, they are alerting your that the current situation is not ok with them. It’s a tool in their warning system. I teach my dogs to leave the room when a situation arises (usually a child with high energy). I teach them ‘go’. It gives them an out, But like you show in this update, you just never know. I’m sorry it happened but I’m so thankful you shared it.

  31. Toy Lady says:

    I just followed a link from another blog I follow. . . thank you so much for helping put this out there. My dog did the same thing with my son 25+ years ago (and I STILL feel awful about it!). Like you, it was a matter of turning my back on an already slightly-stressed dog (I realize that NOW!) and an overly-active toddler for a couple of seconds. Back then, we just didn’t have the resources when it comes to understanding these signals. Again, like your son, nobody was hurt, and, after some agonizing, we came to basically the same conclusion – better supervision, and better training for the CHILD. ๐Ÿ™‚

  32. she should not have put her dog down just kept it safe when the grandchildren came.

  33. Another thing to consider is health. Sometimes, as dogs age, some health conditions could affect behavior. A perfectly sweet dog can sometimes be less patient or not feel up to par and protect itself.

    • Absolutely. And in many behavior cases I like to rule that stuff out first.

      And actually in this case, I do think it played a role too. A few weeks after this happened my Max developed a nose bleed. I was able to get under control and planned to take him in the next day. He didn’t make that visit.

  34. betsyhooman says:

    Reblogged this on thehoundwrangler and commented:
    Excellent and very, very brave post!

  35. Mel says:

    Thank you for sharing your story so that others may learn from your wise words. I am so glad your son is okay and your dog still has a loving home.
    I’ve been highlighting National Dog Bite Prevention Week all week, but I think your blog post is what was really powerful. I will be sharing.

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