Why Do Dogs Bite Children?

Why Do Dogs Bite Children?Dog bites can cause serious injuries such as infections, diseases, puncture wounds, muscle damage, and broken bones. In tragic cases, a victim can die, or be left permanently scarred or disfigured. Children are at the highest risk of these injuries, because they are more likely to be bitten by a dog. They are also more likely to suffer more severe injuries because they’re so small.

Pet Insurance reported a veterinary behavior clinic in Philadelphia that attempted to study what upsets dogs when they are around children. The study was written up in the medical journal Injury Prevention. The study examined 111 dog bite cases involving 103 dogs (41 different breeds) over a four-year period. The study revealed a few noticeable patterns:

  • Territorial Behavior. This behavior was the most likely to cause a dog to bite.
    • Children less than six years old were more likely to suffer a dog bite if the dog felt the children were threats to the dog’s toys or food.
    • Dogs were more inclined to bite children if the dog didn’t know the children while they are protecting their territory.
  • Anxiety. Three-quarters of the dogs that bit showed anxiety due to sudden noise (such as thunderstorms), separation distress, and unpredictable movements from young children.
  • Half of the dogs who bit had medical conditions – kidney disease, liver disease, bone disease, skin disease, or vision problems.

Other studies have found that young boys, aged five to nine, are five times more likely to be bitten than any other group.

When is an owner liable for injuries caused by a dog bite in Charlotte?

In North Carolina, dog owners are only liable for dog bites if the owner knew their dog was dangerous or potentially dangerous – and then only if they fail to warn others or take steps to ensure their dog doesn’t bite someone. State law defines a dangerous dog as a dog that:

  1. Without provocation has killed or inflicted severe injury on a person; or
  2. Is determined by the person or Board designated by the county or municipal authority responsible for animal control to be potentially dangerous because the dog has engaged in one or more of the behaviors listed in subdivision (2) of this subsection.
  3. Any dog owned or harbored primarily or in part for the purpose of dog fighting, or any dog trained for dog fighting.

Examples of dangerous behaviors include prior bites that caused disfiguring lacerations, broken bones, required cosmetic surgery, or required hospitalization. Other examples include causing severe injury or death to a domestic animal while on someone else’s property, or other types of vicious or terrorizing attacks.

A “potentially dangerous” dog is defined by law as one “that the person or Board designated by the county or municipal authority responsible for animal control determines to have:

  1. Inflicted a bite on a person that resulted in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations or required cosmetic surgery or hospitalization; or
  2. Killed or inflicted severe injury upon a domestic animal when not on the owner’s real property; or
  3. Approached a person when not on the owner’s property in a vicious or terrorizing manner in an apparent attitude of attack.”

Every dog is different. Every breed is different. The bottom line, however, is that any dog can bite when provoked – even gentle dogs. Children are generally less likely to see the signs that a dog is agitated or upset than adults, which contributes to their increased risk of injury.

What are the warning signs a dog might bite someone?

Doggie Demeanor suggests that adults and children should look for the following warning signs a dog might bite:

  • The dog is avoiding eye contact
  • The dog’s tail is tucked between his/her legs
  • The dog is growling
  • The dog is backing away
  • The dog’s head is down
  • The dog is showing his/her teeth
  • The dog’s fur on the back or neck is raised
  • The whites of the dog’s eyes are showing
  • The dog is yawning or licking his/her lips
  • The body of the dog is rigid or stiff, whether or not the dog’s tail is wagging

How can I prevent a dog bite injury?

There are a few things you can do as an adult to reduce the risk of a dog bite:

  1. Always supervise play with a pet. Even the best trained dogs can be spooked or feel unwell. Don’t allow small children to play with pets alone, or allow those pets to kept in a closed room with them.
  2. Teach your children to respect a dog’s space. If a dog is hiding, running away, exhibiting nervous behaviors, or in its own crate or bed, teach the child not to disturb the dog. Even gentle pets can bite if they think their food is being taken away from them, so keep children away from the dog’s food bowl, too.
  3. Encourage gentle petting. Kids will want to grab, and dogs can take this as a sign of aggression. Show how to gently pet a dog, and what places on the dog are safe to pet. In general, teach your child to stay away from the dog’s face, ears, and legs.
  4. Introduce pets in a controlled setting. If friends or neighbors are visiting for the first time, put your dog on its leash so you can control its movements while it meets new people. If there is a large group of people coming over, try introducing the dog to smaller groups or individuals, so it is not overwhelmed by the sheer number of people.
  5. Learn your dog’s warning signs. If the dog is exhibiting signs of anxiety or discomfort, move it away from the people. Put its crate in a quiet room so it can clam itself. Only reintroduce the dog if it is safe for everyone.

At Price, Petho & Associates, our Charlotte dog bite lawyers have been helping injured children and adults for more than 40 years. We aim to show a dog owner knew of their dog’s dangerous propensity to bite. We work with your child’s doctors to fully understand the medical care your child needs and how the bite will affect them for the rest of their lives. To speak with a caring dog bite attorney in Charlotte, Rockingham, or Rutherfordton, call us at 704-372-2160 or use or contact form to schedule a free consultation.