Chapter 1
How To Know If A Dog Is The Right Pet For You

Children and Dogs

“Is this dog good with children?” is one of the most common questions parents ask when getting a dog. Dog bites are a serious concern. There are too many stories on the news about children being bitten by a dog. Finding a dog that is good with kids is understandably vital to parents. Here are a few facts you should know that will help you make a good choice.

Children and Dog Bites

The Dog Most Likely to Bite Your Child. Most children are not bitten by a strange dog. Most children bitten by a dog are in the home of a friend or a family member. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has published an informative article that gives more information about children and dog bites. To summarize the article, dog bites occur most often in children between the ages of five and nine years old. Boys are bitten more often than girls and the most frequent area of the body injured is the hand, face, lower leg and lower arm, in that order.

Why Dogs Bite. Dogs bite for many reasons. A dog may bite to defend themselves or because they are ill or injured. Some breeds have a tendency to protect their toys or food and may bite defending them. Sometimes dogs bite as a reaction to things going on around them. Some dogs bite because they are poorly socialized. Chapter 3 discusses Fear Aggression resulting from poor socialization in greater detail.

Genetic Temperament - One reason dogs bite children is that sometimes the child triggers the dog's natural prey instincts. A dog that is bred to chase and capture prey may seem trustworthy with your kids. But, if a child squeals, runs or moves erratically it could trigger the dog's natural instinct to chase and bite. For this reason, if you have small children you should avoid dog breeds with a high prey drive. Also, avoid dog breeds with a reputation for toughness. These animals are not usually bred for calm, child-friendly temperaments.

Breed Plays a Role in Bite Severity - News reports often indicate that dog bites are higher with certain breeds. Merritt Clifton published a study that concluded pit bulls, Rottweilers, Presa Canarios and their mixes were responsible for 74% of the attacks in his study. In part, this is because these dogs frequently have either a high prey drive or are territorial. Both of these facts make them more prone to unexpected attacks.

An aspect that reports don’t generally cover is the severity of these bites is due, in part, to the breed itself. Many dogs make a quick bite or a series of bites and then retreat. Pit Bulls and Rottweilers, among other breeds, have very powerful jaws that clamp on when they bite. This significantly increases the severity of any bite they deliver. A well-socialized Pit Bull and a well-socialized Golden Retriever can both be induced to bite. But, a Pit Bull’s bite is likely to inflict far more damage than a Golden Retriever’s bite because of the Pit Bulls vice-like jaws.

Training Your Children. The final part in the "children + dog" equation is the children themselves. Even the best kids must learn how to behave with dogs. Children must learn to pet dogs gently, not to make sudden moves toward a dog, not to try to ride them, pull their ears or tails, nor pick up, squeeze or drop them. Children must understand they should leave dogs alone when they are eating or sleeping. Children must also know some dogs are protective of their toys. With good guidance, kids are usually interested in learning the proper way to treat dogs. But remember, even the gentlest dog could bite if it feels threatened by an overly-curious, overly-exuberant child. This is why supervision is always recommended when a child is with a dog.

If you're getting a dog for a child, the Breed Selector Software available with this eBook can recommend breeds sometimes called "nanny dogs". These breeds are generally recognized as naturally excellent with children of virtually all ages.