To Keep Our Children Safe, 5 Simple Rules

My heart is heavy as I write this.  It seems that everywhere I turn lately there is a new story about a dog mauling or killing a child; most of which lately have been infants and toddlers.

  • The latest was a Jack Russell Terrier who jumped up and mauled the new infant as he slept in his bassinet.
  • A one year old toddler was killed after he crawled onto his family dog Rhodesian mix (which apparently he had done previously).
  • And a Lab/Golden mix that dismembered and disemboweled a baby left in a baby swing.
  • And if that is not horrifying enough, in 2008 a 6 week old Lab puppy killed a baby left unattended in a baby swing.  6 week old puppy!

No one wins in these instances.  Dogs are euthanized.  Children have died or have been scarred for life and the parents are left to mourn in the aftermath.

Most of these instances have been family dog related attacks.

I hate writing these types of articles, but I feel obligated to help new parents, grandparents and dog owners alike know how to keep everyone as safe as possible when it comes to dogs.

These are my 5 most important tips when it comes to kids and dogs.

#5 Don’t Place Blame

My Step Daughter and My 2 Dogs

It is easy for us dog owners or parents to sit back and place blame when we read a story like this, but blame keeps us from putting ourselves in the shoes of the parents or dog owners; and that is exactly what we need to do to keep this from happening again.

Dog owners and animal advocates will blame the parents or the children; this is easier for them than blaming the dog.  It had to be the parents fault or the child’s fault!  But who hasn’t lost track of their baby for a moment?

Parents will blame the animal.  It must have been aggressive or shown aggressive signs previously.

And everyone will be quite certain they would have been able to see the warning signs before the tragedy occurred.

Blame really does no one any good.

#4  Understand Dogs & Learn to “Read” Dogs

Dogs don’t always like children.  Some do, but some inherently don’t!

Children run like prey, they scream like prey and sometimes they are mistaken for prey.

Dogs are carnivores and they have instincts that would allow and encourage them to chase and kill their meals if need be.  Just because they are domesticated and they are our pets, does not mean that they do not still have these instincts.  Make no mistake instincts are genetic and not a problem of behavior, so even the most docile dog can be overrun by instinct.

Unfortunately when the dog bites the child and the child gutturally screams, it excites and incites the dog to more aggression.

Keep your dogs on leash when children are around!

If your dog stares at children or anything when it runs or rolls (bike, skateboard) past, you have reason to be concerned.   If it chases and nips, you also have reason to be concerned.  Even if you haven’t seen these behaviors you have cause to watch your dog.

I am assuming that a child in a baby swing activated the dog’s prey drive and the child became impossible for the dog to ignore.  Even a 6 week old puppy has prey drive.

Parents don’t want to think that their baby in a baby swing resembles a bunny to their 6 year old or 6 week old beloved family dog, but unfortunately he can.

Even dogs that can control their prey drives, still don’t understand that young children and toddlers are small humans.  Frequently dogs treat these small children like they are other dogs.  This places them (the children) lower on the totem pole or hierarchy.  So when a toddler climbs up on the dog’s back and the dog gives subtle warning signs (like stiffening and staring; that other dogs would recognize but as people we find more difficult to see).  The dog feels like it is left to “correct” or bite the child; often in the head or face (where dogs bite other dogs).

Countless dogs have difficulty sharing.  They may go from being the only “child” in the house to now sharing their owners’ time and affection, or feel like they rarely seeing their owner at all anymore.

And new parents rarely take time to ensure that the family dog doesn’t get jealous.  So the jealousy can build and build and when given the opportunity the dog can take this pent out aggression out on the child.

#3 Teach Your Children

Although babies cannot be educated about dog behavior (they must be watched and monitored), toddlers, young children and children can.

It is crucial that children are taught never to lie on top of a dog.

Never to hug a dog (dogs don’t hug each other in the wild; this is a very dominant behavior).

Never to run up to or away from a dog; frequently children are bitten when (after they have petted the dog) they turn to run away.  Running makes children look like prey and you never want you child to be misconstrued as a prey animal by a dog.

If a dog runs at your child, teach him/her to “be a tree” being completely silent and putting their hands and arms flush against their body and wait for the dog to lose interest.

Never allow children to stick their hands, or face in a dog’s face and never to put their hand over the top of a dog’s head.  Getting in a dog’s face is very dominant behavior.  If another dog did this to your dog he would be met with a growl and a snap.  And quick moving hands can be threatening to a dog.

Instead teach your children to put out their hand to be sniffed and then to pet dogs on their chest.

Teach your children never to pet a dog without you there.  Children cannot read intricate dog body language and so they frequently incur bites by dogs who think they have given many warnings.

Never scream around a dog.  Screaming can scare a dog and incite aggression in a fraction of a second!

Children should be taught to be quiet and well-mannered around dogs, even their own.

Never take your child to a dog park.  Dogs that run in packs are even more terrifying than those alone and dogs at dog parks can perceive running, screaming children as prey.

Never enter the property of someone else even if the child has met the dog.  Countless children are bitten when they wander into the backyard of a neighbor dog looking for their ball or something else.

Children should never go onto a neighbor’s property without adult supervision.

ALWAYS keep an eye on your child.  If you see a dog staring at your child, calmly and quietly leave the area.

Staring and stiffening are often the first signs of stalking and attack!

The "Wrong Dog" Could Maul this or Another Child! Children Should be Taught Never Hug or Lay on Top of Dogs!

#2 Monitor Dog and Child Interaction

Always, always, always monitor the interaction of your children and dogs, even your own pet dog.

You may think your dog would never bite your child, but in the right circumstances all dogs will bite.

Children often think that we adults don’t know what we are talking about, so when they are alone they might be rougher with your dog or they might not be paying attention.  If a child trips and falls on a dog even a nonaggressive and child friendly dog; the dog is likely to bite.

Be very careful when other children come to play.  When children wrestle and fight playfully with one another a dog can misconstrue that as the friend attacking his pack member and a serious bite could ensue.

I teach my dogs to stay with me.  If I can’t see them I go and get them.  I don’t want there to even be a second that a child might do something painful or that the dog thinks is rude or bad manners and get bitten.

If I can’t watch my dogs, they go in crates.

And, if I can’t trust the children (that they might let my dogs out of their crates), they (the children) come with me.

#1 Never leave a Child AlonePlan for the Worst!  This Picture Could Have End Up with a Very Serious Bite!  Such a Dominant Way to Handle a Puppy!

Many of the aforementioned stories resulted because the children were left alone and yet the dog still had access to the child.

Keeping an eye on your children and monitoring them with dogs is important, but some parents don’t realize that a dog should never even have access to the child.

In the case of the bassinet attack, I am guessing that the parents would never have expected the dog to jump up and into the bassinet to attack the baby.

There was also a similar case where the dog took the baby out of the crib when the parents stepped outside.

Never leave your baby alone where the dog could access him or her.

Attacks and incidents can happen in the fraction of a second.

Shut the baby’s room door and make sure it is secure and, if needs be, put your dog in a crate.

Leaving your baby alone in a baby swing is just asking for trouble.  In both cases one parent was home and asleep in another part of the house.

Make sure your biggest asset (your child) is safe!

These stories are terrifying and I hate talking about it too, but as parents and dog owners we need to take responsibility for those in our care.

Don’t automatically place blame.

As horrifying as it is put yourselves in the shoes of those involved and come up with a plan so that we can learn from these tragedies and ensure that they never happen again!

Education, understanding and control are what keep our children and our dogs safe!  Please share this article with those you love.

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  1. I have a toddler and infant granddaughters that will visit soon. If I place a muzzle on my dog would that be advisable?


    Minette Reply:

    A muzzle is better than risking a bite. However muzzles can create frustration and aggravation that might be directed at the baby.

    Instead I would put the dog in a separate room with the door shut, or in a crate in another room with a special bone or a treat.

    And keep the dog on a leash if he is around the children! Even if he does have to have a muzzle on.

    If you use a muzzle I would only recommend the basket muzzles for long periods of time since the other type of muzzles can cause a dog to over heat and die. But be cautious that fingers can get into a basket muzzle!


  2. Maura Rudden says:

    What an incredibly informative article. I am so glad that you have had the courage to write this. People do not realize that these traits are always present in animals no matter how mellow or sweet the dog is.

    Thank you so much for this article.
    Maura Rudden


  3. Janette Jacobs says:

    Thankyou for writing this article too many people think certain breeds wouldn’t do this, let’s hope they take the time to read this article.


  4. Kelsie says:

    I am about to get an 8 week old puppy that is going to live with 3 children and 2 other dogs, i do not have a crate… how much do they cost usually?


    shyrell Reply:

    Someone may have answered already. Crates increase in price as the size increases. They can start at $40 and go up to $90 depending on the type. Some are very expensive as they get bigger and add more features.


    Anne Reply:

    Not sure if they have Joblot where you live, but I have found that Joblot has the least expensive crates. Whatever the cost, they are well worth the price! I have 2 dogs and 3 crates… we travel with crates and use them daily!! Def. get one (0r more!!)


    Charlotte Zweigoron Reply:

    You should check out the size you will need. I got a crate that has an adjustable wall so that it could grow along with the puppy. They only need enough room to stand and turn around. I have a chihuahua pup and paid about $45 +/- for a small crate. The price increases with the size of the crate.


    carah Reply:

    I just bought one for a lab it was 80$ for 80-100Ib so depending on the size of your dog it could be cheaper.


    Magna Mom Reply:

    You could also check for a used crate in good condition. We bought a Med. size Kennel for $30.


    LJ Reply:

    Bought a great crate at Walmart for $45.. he loves it! Perfect size for medium dog.


    Dave Reply:

    Check thrift stores and flea markets.
    You can find plenty of them in good condition at a fraction of the cost of a new one.


    Lea Smith Reply:


    Dog crates can be anywhere from $15-$150 depending on the company selling them, what they are made of, and the size of your dog.

    Shopping around can save you money:


    Kelsie Reply:

    Thanks for all your replies! 🙂 I will go and search! 😀


  5. David McElwain says:

    It’s a tricky subject, that’s for sure. In Singapore most parents are really concerned to let their kids near dogs so when we walk ours most will keep their kids well away. I used to find this disturbing as the mistrust the parents have will thereafter be instilled into the kids and I still find it a little strange, but most live in small, apartments and if they have animals, they are also small!

    Our two year old German Shepherd / Singapore mongrel cross has had a previous life, we got him at a year old from a shelter. He nips a bit, barks, growls at some other dogs but is generally very friendly to people, especially once we let them into the house. I have learned, however, not to try and take things from him without giving him a substitute. The other night we were going to bed, my wife found a piece of paper near our dog Dhoby and went to pick it up. He had obviously claimed it as his own and bit her, quite hard. We then of course screamed at him, which made him scared so he bared his teeth at us.

    You live and learn. If Dhoby was with a small child who was unaware of his proprietorial instincts something very nasty could have happened. As it was, my wife got a shock and we all learned something!


    Jean Reply:

    I would stay pretty far away from your dog Dhoby too! Amazing what people regard as acceptable behaviour in domestic animals.


    David McElwain Reply:

    Actually you would find him a very enjoyable companion.And we don’t find his biting my wife acceptable, I brought this up because it can be a problem with many dogs and the substitute training is a good way to avoid it happening. We are undertaking training of our animal because he’s had a past life and we don’t know what that entailed.If we took him back to the pound he’d probably be put down…. All dog owners need to be careful with their dogs and others.


    Kelsie Reply:

    I recently went to singapore and i did notice that there weren’t many dogs out and about… This is sad to know… 🙁


    David McElwain Reply:

    There’s no shortage of dogs but as most Singaporeans live in small apartments they have small dogs as there is a size requirement ( there’s regulations for everything in Singapore!). So anything bigger than a maltese terrier is considered suspect!


    Martha Reply:

    I understand how wonderful it is to take in an abused dog. I have taken in a lot. Please take the time to have your dog put through obedience training. If he got away with one bite the next could be much worse. A friend did the same thing as your wife; Lisa tried to clean a mess up on a porch only to have the six month chow puppy she had saved attack her and nearly take her arm off. It was the second encounter, the first one Lisa had chalked up as mistake. The mistake is you must be Alpha and in control as dogs think of us as part of the pack.


    David McElwain Reply:

    How right you are…. we have weekly obedience classes and he is improving and the biting part was a bit of an aberration to his usual behaviour, we are concentrating on socialising him with other dogs and curtailing his barking. It’s the usual territorial thing. When he’s inside the house gate he’s noisy and when he’s outside he’s pretty good. I’m being as Alpha as possible!! Thanks for your comment.


    Eileen Reply:

    I am a canine behaviorist and I am also a big advocate of obedience classes for people and their pets. However, from what I read in your original text you don’t have an obedience problem as much as you have a leadership problem. I deal with countless of clients who have been though obedience training; passed with flying colors, and still have dogs who create chaos in the home and don’t respect the humans as leadership figures. I hope that your trainer will guide you on how to take on this leadership role in a way that has meaning for your dog so that, as Martha suggests, you represent alpha. This is not accomplished by being mean to the dog just with consistency. Every interaction with your dog, has meaning for your dog, even if they are just mundane tasks for you and I. All humans in the home should represent leader so your dog learns to be respectful to all. Good luck.

  6. Wendy says:

    I have always taught kids when wanting to say hello to a dog they’ve not met, to allow the dog to sniff the back of your hand and wrist, not the palm. Keep your arm in line up and down with the dog’s jaws. Your fingers are tucked into a fist away from the dog’s mouth, and it is difficult, even for the biggest dog, to bite a long straight arm/wrist. I hope I am making sense. I have been nipped at by a suddenly aggressive dog, but all I got was a fright. If I’d offered my palm/fingers, no doubt the dog would have taken them.
    Also, by proffering an arm in this manner, you are putting something between yourself and the dog. Dogs (such as mine) who like to jump up on people, are blocked from doing so.


    Ryan Reply:

    YOU should also teach children/grandchildren/nice/nephew or any other child you watch to ask the owner if it is ok to pet the dog. If your dog jumps up at people I recommend you get a gentel leader. It makes such a difference.


  7. Cynthia says:

    Very informative ~~~~ thank-you for an absolute reminder!


  8. David Kenyon says:

    Thank you for an excelent article.
    However I have one concern with the child offering the baack of the hand for the dog to smell and then patting the dogs chest.
    If this is done from the front of the dog this has the possibility of putting the childs face in the vicinity of tthe dogs mouth, I was always taught to approach the dog side on and after letting the dog smell my hand caress the dog under the chin, in this way the dog can see the hand and is less of a damger to both parties.
    Thanks again for an excelent article.
    regards Dave Kenyon


  9. Cheryl says:

    What a most detailed and important education theme chosen for today, Chet! Even well trained dogs together with children need to be closely observed. This is an important lesson we must teach our children as well just as we teach the child his address, 911 and other necessary knowledge. At one time I believe you made a statement that bears repeating even if paraphrased—‘Dogs are animals first, then breeds, then a name. So many of us love and treat our pets as members of the family—and they are! But, as we put our human characteristics upon them–they ARE animals FIRST and must be respected for that place in nature. Again thank you.


  10. Ed Madeline says:

    wow what a story,You know I have 6 dogs and I have never had one of them bite anyone. I have had people ask a simple question(do they bite?)I always answer with (THEY HAVE TEETH DONT THEY BUT THEY HAVEN’T BITTEN ANYONE YET).Just remember the dogs are dogs and they will protect themselfs so always watch the childern around them please.


  11. Lucille says:

    Thank you for your article. It is very informative. I witnessed a dog barking after a child. The child froze and stood very still. The dog did lose interest. I also saw a different dog bark after another child, who screamed and continuously jumped up and down. The dog barked and circled the child until the owner was able to catch the dog.

    I just got a 5 month old dog – husky/spaniel mix who is very gentle. I will keep a close eye on her and be aware of the behaviours you mentioned. Your tips very helpful.


    Tashnicp Reply:

    Please remember that dogs can change a lot in adulthood.


  12. Charlea Ash says:

    Thanbs for the great article. We have always had dogs, even around our children, but we ahve never had a problem with this, fortunately. As grandparents, we intend to watch our dog and guard against a problem.

    Thanks again for the reminder.



  13. Sharon Anderson says:

    Great article. I belong to a therapy dog group and my rescue has been rejected because she can be reactive to some dogs who don’t respect her space. A dog who the owner admits is reactive to children, however, has been accepted. Neither is good, but which is worse? Her response is that she doesn’t take her dog where there will be children. Their response to me when I say the same about taking my dog where she will be the only dog-“you never know when another dog will show up”. I have been training dogs for 12 years and am a volunteer trainer at an obedience school. She has not had any professional training. I know my dog and her limitations. She puts children at risk. Makes me want to quit the group! Know your dog and watch her at all times. Know the signs given in this article and walk away from potential problems.


  14. Elga Walker says:

    I’m glad to read this article. I have a 16 mo old GSD and an 8 mo old Aussie. Anytime the aussie whines about anything….even if the GSD and him were playing and the aussie got hurt…the GSD automatically becomes aggressive with my aussie. I can see where a couple of kids in the yard playing and screaming like kids do could create this same situation.


    Minette Reply:

    Exactly! I am glad that you understand that and now everyone will be safer 🙂 Thank you for sharing that!


  15. Nancy Bevans says:

    Thank you for this article. May I copy and share this with others?


    Minette Reply:

    Yes, please do! The more it is shared the safer people and dogs can be 🙂


  16. Norma says:

    Hello: I am a dog sitter and found this article extremely infomative and enlightening.

    I have children playing next door all the time. I will watch the dogs more closely when I am outside with them.

    Some of the children come in a play with the dogs. They always ask first. Depending on the dogs I have at the time, some of them are allowed to enter. One of the chldren is extremely afraid of dogs and has been nipped in the past. I work to lessen his fear and make him more comfortable being around dogs. It is terrible for anyone to be denied the joy a dog can bring. I teach the children respect and space and to watch for any signs of fear or aggression. I educate children at the dog park. I was somewhat uncomfortable to know that I have witnessed the exact behavior you are talking about.

    I learned so much more from this article and it has provided me with more knowlege and therefore giving me more confidence in what I am doing with the dogs and the children.

    I will pass this article on and will inform my clients and the children of what I have learned.

    Thank you for publishing this article. It was painful to read, but necessary. The more people that are educated in dog behavior the better and safer for everyone.


  17. Libby Christianson says:

    My 11 mo. old Golden-Doodle seems very sweet and very gentle, but he likes to play or greet everyone by gently taking their hand or arm into his mouth. I always tell him to sit when meeting new people, but once the introduction is over, he starts with the whole-mouth tasting! What does this behavior mean? How do I stop it?


    Minette Reply:

    You absolutely have to stop this behavior!

    Put him on a leash and keep him by your side.

    Give people treats to give him and then give him a command or something else to do so that he stops this behavior.

    If he shouldn’t do it to a 2 year old, or a 90 year old, you should stop the behavior!


    Melanie Reply:

    Give him a toy to mouth instead. We did this with our collie/spaniel 5 month old puppy and now when people come over or we get home he habitually looks for a toy to carry around instead of mouthing.


    Eileen Reply:

    I too had a dog that mouthed in this manner and I tried many, many things to break the habit to no avail. What worked was the same thing that worked for Melanie. We would withhold the affection and tell him to “Find Something” when he came back with a toy he could be given affection without mouthing the person. You could tell that it did not mean anything mean by it he was like a moth to a flame. He’s a very sweet dog without a dominant bone in his body!


    Ryan Reply:

    My dog mouths people all the time. It is not bad. He is just playing. My dog is 120 pounds and mouths. I rather him do that then bite. Get a gentle leader and teach him simple commands.


  18. George Hamilton says:

    I tried this as a reply direct to David McElwain but the link wouldn’t work so here goes.

    I can’e believe that you allow this behavior. He bit your Wife and that was her fault?

    Back in the ’80s my Parents had a cocker spaniel named Ruff. They fed him his dinner in the garage. Once, while I was visiting, I fed Ruff and then hung around the garage doing something. I walked near the dog while he was eating and he growled. I yelled at him, got his attention, chased him away and took his food. Then I grabed hold of those long ears and held his head so that he had to look at me. I explained that I was the “boss” and he was the dog. After that he ubnderstood and we were friends. He was always happy to see me when I came over and we played. I fed him many times after that and he never growled.

    The purpose of this articlewas to tell us that a your dog might mistake a child’s place in the pecking order, might not know he was a “boss” also.

    If you aren’t your dog’s “boss”, you need to correct that or get rid of the dog.


    Natasha Reply:

    YES! This is why we study dog behavior and training. All family members need to be seen as bosses. And possessiveness is a big issue. The dog who plays keep away and won’tbive you back the ball thinks he is the boss. Practice giving a toy and cheerfully taking it back with praise and treat. Also jumping on people is dominance. Teach that, and mouthing, to not be ok. Just because it’s a dog play behavior doesn’t mean it’s not also about dominance.


    Natasha poppe Reply:

    YES, possessiveness, jumping and mouthing can be play, but don’t forget that play is also about dominance. The dog who plays keep away thinks he is boss.practice giving a toy ang cheerfully taking it back with lots of praise and treats plus a substitute. All three of these behaviors must be trained away.


    StripyJules Reply:

    Right. This works, right up until you meet the dog that challenges you right back at your first shout. You shouldn’t encourage ANYBODY to physically take on a dog, let alone a child. I thought the ‘dominance’ theory had died a death? It’s long proven as based on faulty research to start with. If you must, by all means out- think a dog but NEVER get in close in to a dog which is already warning you by all the means it can that it is uncomfortable in your presence and never allow a child to do so. There are far, far better and safer ways to handle these situations. There are all the articles out there at the moment encouraging people to educate their children to leave dogs alone when they’re eating and you come up with this method?


  19. Betty says:

    I am a Grandmother with a 17 week old puppy who is teething right now. Our grandchildren 5, 4, and 2 will be visiting again. I thought the replys were all great but I need to know how to intruduce the pup and the children again, and what to do when they are here all day and night. (I don’t want to leave the pup in the laundry room the entire time)

    Thank you for this article and all of the replys. We all want to have safe enviroments for everyone!


    Minette Reply:

    Put the puppy on a leash and have the children spend time with him one at a time.

    Teach them to pet the puppy on the chest and as they are petting put a treat in the pups mouth to keep him occupied and to reward him for good behavior so that he associates the kids with fun and treats.

    When you can’t watch the pup, put him out side or in a crate. And work on obedience in the interim of their visit!


  20. Oh, this brings back a horrible memory.
    My daughter, who now is 48, was attacked by a doberman when she was 9 years old.
    We had had Dobermans ever since my children were very young.
    I had left my three chrildren in the care of a friend whild visiting my mother in the hospital.
    I recieved a call whild there that Tyro (my friends male Dobe) had bitten my daughter and she was in the emergency room.
    I went running in, against the advice of the nurses, and found my daughter who’s face looked like nothing but blood and bone.
    Needless to say I passed out.
    She was in surgery for four hours. A plastic surgeon and an orthodonis put her back together.
    Thank God for the Doctors of the Houston Medical Center.
    She was playing with the dog, who she knew, and was kneeling in front of him. She picked up his ball and he attacked.
    She healed great and was once again beautiful.
    She is not afraid of dogs but very causious.
    I don’t ever want to see someone go through what we did because someone was careless. Later I found out that he had done this before to a four yr. old little boy.
    The people got him (the dog) away from athorities and sent him to a farm in West Texas.
    I since have had several wonderful Dobes. I never never left chrildren alone with them when I had them or my Bichon and Shih-Tzu that I have now..
    I hope dog owners will take heed to your warning.
    Never say Never.
    Thank you,
    Geneva Cullen.


  21. Debbie says:

    I have a twelve week old boxer. She insists on mouthing and play biting. I have small grandchildren. How can I keep her from biting. Everything I have tried has only worked for short periods. I would appreciate anything you can give me on this subject. Thank You


    Minette Reply:

    Try this!!

    and start obedience training now!!!! At 9 weeks old my new puppy can sit, down, put his head down, stand and is learning to bark on command! It is never too young and when we give them other alternatives they often stop biting!


  22. My little miniature pincher is running after me and other adults and jumping up to nip our hands I am very unsure how to teach him that this behaviour is not acceptable, normally I would have bitten him back (not too hard) on his ear. Now I don’t know what to do. After reading this information I am very sure that I will have to watch Buttons very carefully when we have visitors who have children. Buttons doesn’t have a crate so I have to shut him in my classroom. Any advice would be very welcome, Thanks. Please keep the emails coming I rely on them a lot. Regards Alyson


    Minette Reply:

    Put him on a leash to control him and prevent him from running and nipping. Also integrate obedience so that you can give him something else to do instead of running and nipping!


  23. Georgie McFarland says:

    I have 2 dog carriers purchased at yard sales for &10. each.


  24. Carole says:

    Just a note to say that your article ranks far better than any I’ve read concerning dogs, their behavior, and the damage that can be done when we forget to remember their nature. The piece was particularly great given the delicate subject matter. You managed to write it giving full respect to dogs, while gracefully respecting the victims of dogs’ instinctual behavior. To be sure, no easy task. Very well done.


  25. I have personally had dogs all my life[76yrs] having grown up on a farm. Your article is one of the best I have read, especially in regards to children, adults & dogs.
    I personally cannot emagine life with out a dog. I encourage those who are lonely to have a dog to share life with.
    What you say regarding biting is spot on. Congratulations on such an informative, spot on article. I am pleased that you are allowing it to be copied so that it can reach a wider field.
    Thank you again,
    yours Faithfully,

    PS: “Accidents do happen.”
    I was sitting in the front of my car, my wife had gone shopping. I must have dozed off My dog, Buffy, a Golden Kelpie[8yrs] was asleep on the drivers seat next to me. In the back was a friend of mine in his early 80’s. I was awakened by a scream from him! ” Buffy has biitten me!” There was blood everywhere. She sure had scun his hand.
    It was a very warm day & he must have petted her when she moved into the back seat. The police were called, they questioned my friend, looked at Buffy & wrote it off as an accident! My friend spent 10 days in hospital while they did a fantastic job at patching his hand up with not a mark.
    We now do not have passengers in the car with our dog unless one of us sits in the back with the dog.
    Thanks again for your article.


  26. Lynda says:

    I enjoyed this very educational article. I remember a time I was visiting some friends who owned Rott Weilers. I like dogs and didn’t show any fear so I kneeled down to greet the female Rott Weiler and the male Rottie that was near by lunged at me placing his big paw in the middle of my chest pushing me off balance. The owner thankfully acted swiftly and detained the male Rottie and placed him out of harms way. Thank God the owner did what he did or I could’ve been seriously injured. I believe this male dog had some aggression issues. The owner had to always make sure that after walking that particular dog, the Master would walk in first in order to establish “who” was the leader of the pack.Is this typical for all males and also of this breed?


  27. Katemomoffive says:

    Thank you so much for this article and the great replies. I have a two year old who likes to get a little physical with our puppy. He is a shepherd/husky mix and almost 5 months old. The dog tries to nip him and we try to teach my son what not to do, but its very hard. Some great advice…thank you!


  28. patty says:

    how do you get your dog to stop nipping


    Minette Reply:

    It depends how old your dog is and in what circumstances.

    However, most often I am going to tell you to keep your dog on a leash and teach him through obedience how to act around people.


  29. patty says:

    he is almost a year old


  30. cristina says:

    thanks for this articol I have a son 9 years old and a dauther 14 months and a I must keep them safe


  31. ed s toner says:

    VERY wise words
    thanks ed


  32. My 11 mo. old GoldenDoodle likes to hold the leash gently in his mouth when we walk, as if he is walking himself. It keeps the leash nice and loose, he doesn’t pull, so it seems fine to me. However, many people criticize me for allowing him to do this. I have tried giving him a ball or a toy to carry instead, but he’ll drop that object whenever he is distracted, causing more work for me. Is it wrong for him to hold his leash? How do I break him of doing this?


    Minette Reply:

    I wouldn’t want my dog to do it…but there are probably plenty of things my dogs do that you wouldn’t want!

    It is all about what you want in a dog…if he doesn’t pull and it doesn’t bother you don’t worry about what other people say.


  33. JR says:

    Well, first I’d like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for this article. 2nd,it comes 1 day too late (at least my reading of it). We adopted a Wheaton Terrier about 6 wks ago. He’s now 8 months old. A pure-bred, puppy mill dog who spent the 1st 5-6 months of his life in a pet shop, reportedly crated/caged with other puppies. He was purchased by a couple with a 4 yr.old boy and I was told by the mom “He(the dog)kept taking my son’s toy’s and annoying my son.” So the original owners gave him (the dog, of course) away to relatives who had older children. They apparently had him for a month when they (according to the original owner) felt that they should find the dog another home, as everyone in the house was gone all day. The original owner was the one who placed the add through a rescue site stating “good with kids and good temperment”. We went to pick up the puppy. Immediately he jumped on me (ok, he’s a puppy) and as I was talking to the then owners, the puppy began pulling at my sweater sleeve and nipping at my hands. I firmly got a hold of his jaws and said “No”. Everybody there (neighbors included) said “Ah,she know’s how to handle him.” I thought nothing of it. Since we’ve had him here with us, on a number of occasions now, he’ll suddenly lunge at me and start a bout of biting my arm. When I firmly say “No!”, sometimes he’ll stop aaand sometimes he won’t. Sometimes he’ll start growling and the more I raise my voice, the more he does it. Since this started, I’ve been doing a lot of online research on how to deal with this problem as early on as possible. My husband has no qualms about picking him up and tossing him and that seems to have worked as he doesn’t do that to him anymore. But I’m a petite lady. I took him to the groomer. The woman at the front desk was also an obedience trainer told me that he’s not playing, he’s sparring for domination. I indicated that I felt that also and I was beginning to be afraid during these times and I did not want to show any fear. She gave me a tip to not only raise my voice, but to change it’s tone in addition to gesturing for him to stop. When he does stop, change my voice again to “loving” and give him a light scratch under his chin, in praise “good stop”. The instances are becoming fewer and shorter.
    I took him with me to work yesterday, as I work with autistic children. I was to be working with one particular child whose mom said it would be ok to bring him and use him in the therapy session. My dog loves children. He’ll jump, lick and roll over to be scratched will the little guys. However, when I brought doggie into the fenced in area and let him off the leash to run and hopefully throw/catch a frizbee, my doggie playfully jumped on some kids. They started screaming and running away, my doggie ran after them. This scared the child I brought him to work with. The child started sobbing. I leashed the dog immediately and proceeded to calm the child and assure him that my doggie is just a puppy and all he wants to do is play and that there was nothing to be afraid of. There was no consoling him. The session needless to say, was unsuccessful. However the child did end up lightly petting him and gave him a treat through a steel fence opening.
    However, after reading this informative article, I focused back on how the situation could have gone so differently. I didn’t anticipate the children screaming and running. I then thought of the liability. I feel so foolish at not entertaining the possibility. However, my doggie was really sweet with the children. I felt proud at how he listened to me and how well behaved he was after that moment. However…………
    I will never, ever do that again.


  34. cynthia says:

    Never assume!! As much as I love all my dogs and they love me and my family and each other, one false moment and there can be a disaster. I have no babies in the house but I don’t even let them alone without me or another family member around. Have the pit kenneled when I am not here and he is totally kenneled trained cause I don’t want to set my pets up for failure. Any dog breed can attack given the right situation.

    Thank you for doing the hard thing. I hope someday to be a grand parent and I know that this article will stay in my mind so I can keep my grand baby safe and out of harm’s way.

    Let this be a wake up call to all us dog lovers and parents and grandparents alike.


  35. Dawn says:

    Thank you so much for this article. It really is an eye-opener! I was a little uneasy when my cute little dog stared at little ones, but didn’t know what to think, but now I do. Wow… who would have thought it!


    Minette Reply:

    Just give your dog something else to do other than stare…give you eye contact…do obedience like sit, down, shake…it doesn’t matter just so that you can break that mind set and make him a little safer 🙂

    Obedience is the key!


  36. Aleita says:

    Thank you for this wonderful article. We have a border collie that we got from a shelter. We heard that she had been abused. She is a lovely dog and even tries her best at rounding up sheep but we find we have to watch her with small girls – she can snap at them. We think this may be from her previous home. We watch her at all times when we have people over especially little girls but is there a way to train her not to do this?


    Minette Reply:

    It is especially hard to train on a problem that involves children, because we have to remember that it is safety first!

    Keep her on a leash when you have small girls around and don’t allow her to be off leash or alone with them. Accidents (fatal and traumatic ones) can happen in the blink of an eye.

    Give her coping skills. Instead of letting her stare or want to chase them…get her to give you eye contact and do obedience for you. This will hopefully help to change her mindset.

    If you cannot watch her; crate her! Better safe than sorry!


  37. Heather says:

    Our 5 year old border collie started growling/showing his teeth at our 11 year old son. It just started when our son came home from a sleepover at a friends house who has a dog and a cat. When our son tried to pet our dog he growled/showed his teeth and our dog seems to want nothing to do with our son. We had our son take a shower to possibly get rid of any smells, but he is still growling/showing teeth. Why is the dog acting like this? What can we do?


    Minette Reply:

    Get a behaviorist to come out to the house and work with you.

    Aggression and children cannot be diagnosed over the internet, someone needs to see it and the dog and the family need to be put on a behavior modification program.


  38. Tony says:

    Watching a CBBC program with my grandson yesterday. Very much aimed at young toddlers. They had a border collie (beautiful dog) which was brought into a group of three/four year olds. Lots of head patting and hugging from the children. Lots of lip licking, head turns and yawns from the dog. Surely these program makers employ professional dog trainers!


  39. Christine Randle says:

    Hi Minette, I know this is an older story, but Im just going through them again because my dog is showing some aggresion. We have a female Rottwieller, and we are an older couple, so she is our baby. When we are at home she is a baby, she is beautiful gentle loving sooky, but when we go out, she is protective especially with other dogs. We went today to the local park, and she just wants to chase the other dogs away from us, and keep us to herself. Our grandaughter has just got a new dog, a baby terrier, and she lives with us and our dog Lilly is jelous of him, although she will play with him and run with him, she will also snap at him when she has had enough. She takes his toys and chews them or buries them, but on the whole, she is good with him, but she seems to be getting worse with outside dogs…. She is protective in the car also, we only have to drive past someone who is walking on the street and she thinks she has to bark at them… We have tried the “Leave it ” thing for months now and its not working…Any suggestions would be helpful Cheers Minette…. Chris Randle


  40. Karen says:

    I had a Bichon about a year and she was very good with me but when my granddaughter came she ran after her. I thought Daisy was playing and didn’t put any notice to it until I went out in the back yard and she had one of my new puppy Poodles in her mouth, in the air trying to kill her. Now I thought to well she is fine other than those to instances but then I thought what if I weren’t around and then I had to realize that she was in herself not happy. I loved her enough to give her up. From all I can find in research if a dog has aggressive nature there is no way they can be trusted and once a dog gets in the attack and kill mode you haven’t got a chance of stopping them until it is to late. You can give them all the training your money can buy but you can’t take away the memory of the past they carry with them and when it surfaces the price you will pay may be just to much to bear. Love them, but know when love isn’t enough!


  41. JC Gracey says:

    Our 10 week old doberman puppy (girl) has recently started barking at our 3.5 year old little boy. She did it once when he crawled under the dinner table (I think the puppy had decided under the table was “her place”) and once when I was stroking his head (I figure she was jealous that I was “patting” another “puppy”). I am pretty sure the puppy has the notion that Tom is another dog. I have stopped them playing “chase” because of the “prey instinct” but I am wondering if we should start having Tom feed her and give her treats so she starts to associate him with being in charge of her food and therefore higher in the pack order. Any other thoughts would be gratefully received.


  42. Eileen says:

    My dog just growled/ snapped at my 1.5 yr old nephew (first time he’s ever snapped at any human) from under the table too – we were all sitting at the dining room table and he was under there and my nephew, at eye level, reached out his hand to him…usually he just licks my nephew to death and would normally lick his hand to see if he had something in it, but this time he perceived a threat for some reason. As my nephew’s getting older and more interactive with the dog, I think my dog is viewing him as more of a threat. It’s pretty clear that he doesn’t view him as a human because he never, ever acts aggressively toward adults, even during really rough play. I’ve always had my nephew give him treats and food in order to avoid this, but it doesn’t seem to have worked; to be safe, I don’t think I’ll ever allow my dog around my nephew without a muzzle on from now on – at least until he’s old/ tall enough for the dog to see him as a human. Or else he’ll have to be separated in another room by a baby gate – breaks my heart, because my nephew loves him, but my heart would definitely be more broken if a) my nephew got hurt and b) my dog had to be put down because of it.


    Minette Reply:

    Find a boarded veterinary behaviorist ASAP


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