Pups generally are enthusiastic and nurturing companions that are loyal and eager to please.  But sometimes accidents happen, and even the sweetest “nanny dog” can be pushed over the edge, leaving your child’s fingers bruised and bitten.  Find out what triggers might cause a dog to snap at your child, so you can know how to avoid this.

Reasons a Dog Might Bite a Child

  • The dog is guarding something. This could be anything from a new toy he claimed, a treasure that he has dug up in the yard, or something he knows he is not allowed to have and doesn’t want it taken away. Kids sometimes do not understand why a dog might have their toy, dolly, or blanket and may try to take it back. This could easily result in getting bitten if an adult does not step in.
  • The dog is old, uncomfortable or unwell. When a dog is in recovery mode, he may not want to be touched, approached or even stroked at all. Ailments such as digestive issues, coat agitation, itchy skin and fevers might make well-intended pats cuddles extremely unwelcome.   An elderly dog in pain might be snippy or quick to bite, and should be given some healthy space, especially if a child is coming over to comfort him, but ends up petting him roughly.  Similarly, if the dog has had an injury, or is healing from something traumatic he might be afraid of feeling more pain if the area were to be touched. This could also result in a nip.
  • The dog is afraid or feeling threatened.  Cornered animals, or pets that feel frightened can suddenly become defensive. If the child has habit of pulling the tail, hitting the dog or frightening him by throwing things, the dog might simply retaliate back with a bite, since teeth and claws are the only form of communication dogs have.
  • The dog was startled. If your pup was snoozing, and your toddler accidentally stepped on his tail, a dog might reel around and bite at the offender quicker than you can stop him. The same can occur if the child tries to interrupt a dog from eating, they could nip them as a warning to back away.
  • The dog plays too rough. This is unfortunately a common occurrence with children, because they may start riling the dog up with chasing and wrestling, and before you know it the child is in tears because the dog bit him.   What was meant to be a playful nip might have pulled or pinched a little too much, and caused your child pain. Puppies as they grow may not realize their strength!
  • The dog sees your child as prey. If the breed is very large, and your little one behaves as if he is prey (by running, screaming, fleeing, or roller blading/riding bikes past him, the pup will be inclined to chase.  These escapades can take an aggressive turn, so help your child understand what behaviors to avoid and what will keep him safe.