3 Smart, Simple Tips to Prevent Dog Bites

3 Smart, Simple Tips to Prevent Dog Bites from Smart Kids 101

Have you ever noticed how most kids are drawn toward dogs like a magnet? And for a great reason! Dogs can be fun to play with, great for teaching responsibility, and they’re so darn cute and cuddly.

Except when they’re not.

The truth is that no child should ever go up to an unfamiliar dog and try to pet it. Without knowing the dog’s disposition or history, the child is putting himself at great risk for dog bites. And we’re not even talking about an aggressive dog here!

Any dog that you don’t have permission to pet should be off-limits. But how do you teach this to kids when they are so drawn to the adorable little furballs?

A good start is by teaching dog safety to your kids, which doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds. We cover it all (and much more!) in our Safe Kids 101 e-Course. But if you want to get a head start, here are some tips to avoid dog bites (for kids and grownups!):

Dog Bites Prevention Tips (for Parents and Kids alike!)

1. Dog Bites Prevention Tip #1: Read This Book

May I Pet Your Dog?: The How-to Guide for Kids Meeting Dogs (and Dogs Meeting Kids) (affiliate link)
by Stephanie Calmenson and illustrated by Jan Ormerod
When I discovered this book at our local library years ago, I was elated. Charley was about 2 or 3 years old, and this was just the friendly introduction to dog safety that we needed. We checked it out again recently, and it continued to wow me.

This book is great for young kids up to about first or second grade. Told from the Harry-the-dog’s point of view, kids take a little journey through the park and learn how to greet dogs.

As you read, have your kids repeat the question (and title of the book) back to you for practice, “May I Pet Your Dog?” This is the key to dog safety and prevention of dog bites: always ask the dog’s owner first! The dog’s owner knows their animal better than anyone else and will be able to let you know if it’s safe to pet.

It also underscores a valuable lesson: even more than being a safety issue for kids, asking before petting a dog is a great lesson in manners and could easily go along with your chats on yard manners for kids. Respecting the dog and his owner enough to ask first reminds kids that they are not entitled to just walk up and pet any animal they wish.

As the book shows: some dogs are not friendly towards children, and other dogs are actually working a job and should not be distracted. More than just preventing dog bites, this book helps kids think about the situation from others’ perspectives (both the dog and the dog’s owner).

I highly recommend you purchase the book from the affiliate link above or check it out from your local library. It’s a great introduction to dog safety!

Also for young kids, the ASPCA has a great free educational resource. Look at each pictured scenario and talk through it with your child. Quiz them again a couple days or so later to be sure they’ve understood when it’s safe to pet a dog.

2. Understanding Dog Aggression

You want to prevent dog bites, of course. Looking at it from the dog’s point of view might sound batty, but it could actually be helpful. So take a second to think about this: why is the dog exhibiting aggressive behavior in the first place?

According to WebMD, there are many reasons for dogs to exhibit aggression. It could be a health issue, a territorial problem, or a defensive fear-based reaction. That’s right, one of the most common reasons for dog bites is that the animal feels scared and lashes out to protect itself.

Earlier this year, I read in Parents Magazine that dogs kept inside invisible fences may actually exhibit more aggression because they lash out in frustration — even dogs that are usually friendly.

So what you or your child sees as simply reaching towards a dog to pet it could be mistaken by the animal as an affront. Then, BAM, the dog bites. To prevent a mishap like this, teach your kids to always ask the owner first before petting a dog. (Am I sounding like a broken record? Because it’s really that simple.) If the owner isn’t around, especially if the dog is inside his invisible fence, steer clear of it for now.

Have your child ask before petting and other Dog Bites Prevention tips from Smart Kids 101


3. Preventing Dog Bites If You Have a Dog

While some people think certain dog breeds are more prone to aggression, a lot of it actually has to do with training. Depending on if your dog was a rescue or not, you may have some learned behaviors to undo. Never fear! At my local library, I found the book How To Speak Dog by Sarah Whitehood (affiliate link) extremely helpful. There’s a whole section on learning dog language that kids will find a lot of fun. The author points out what types of body language and signals to look for when a dog might be scared or angry — and what to do in safe response to those signals to prevent dog bites.

If you’re a dog owner with kids, grab them this book at your library or from the above affiliate Amazon link. Not only will they learn to “speak Dog as a second language” (how cute is that?) but they can also learn some tricks for teaching obedience and practicing safety around their new best friend.

On this note, Cesar Milan (AKA the “Dog Whisperer”) also has some great advice for understanding aggression in dogs, including adopting a position of “calm, assertive leadership” and simply making sure the dog has had plenty of exercise. Those seem like pretty straightforward, reasonable ways to prevent dog bites. I don’t know about you, but I could probably manage to be a little more calm and assertive in my household at times. And I don’t even own a dog right now. Ahem. Moving on!

Bottom line? You can’t assume when dog bites are at stake. Talk to your kids about safe, respectful behavior around dogs and their owners. Make sure they know the rules regarding when it’s safe to approach and/or pet a dog. (It’s easy — you know what I’m about to say — ALWAYS ask the owner first!)

Follow these tips to keep those you love — both human and canine alike — happy, healthy, and safe.

Got any other tips or resources I missed? Please share below in the comments. I love hearing from you!

READ NEXT: Aggressive Dog? What Your Child Needs to Know about Dog Safety 

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About Aubrey Hunt
Before hopping on the crazy ride we call motherhood, I studied engineering and taught math and science to middle and high school students. Now, perhaps like you, I fill my days singing The Itsy Bitsy Spider and praying my preschooler will eat a vegetable — any vegetable!