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Why Dogs Bite: A Guideline for Children



The noises and movements you make when you play are very exciting to dogs. When dogs play with other dogs, they often play roughly with their sharp teeth and claws. Sometimes dogs forget that they can’t play the same way with you, and because they don’t have hands, they use their mouths to grab things. A dog can hurt you by accident, just by being too excited.


What you should do | Play gently and calmly and if a dog gets too excited, freeze and walk away. Take some time out to give you both a chance to calm down.


Pain or Sickness

When a dog is in pain, he doesn’t understand where the pain comes from. If you touch him, he may think you are causing the pain and will bite you to stop the pain.


What you should do | If a dog is acting like he is sick or hurt, leave him alone — even if he belongs to your family. Tell an adult, and together you can get medical help for the dog.



A dog will protect anything that’s important to him: his toys; his bed; his food and water bowls; his people; his yard; his house; or his car. If you come near something that a dog feels is off-limits to you, he may bite to make you leave his “property” alone!


What you should (or should not) do | Don’t go into a yard where there’s a dog you don’t know. Don’t reach through a car window or a fence to pet a dog. Don’t pet a dog that’s tied up. Don’t touch a dog’s “property.”


Fear or Surprise

Quick movements and sudden or loud noises are scary for dogs, and they may bite to protect themselves. If a dog thinks you’re a stranger who might hurt him, he may not know how to get away, so he’ll protect himself by biting.


What you should do | When you’re around a dog you don’t know, be quiet and move slowly. Always ask the dog’s owner for permission before you pet him. If the owner isn’t there for you to ask, leave the dog alone.


Warning Signs

Watch and listen for the warnings a dog will give you to let you know when he is upset. If his ears are laid back against his head, or his legs are very stiff, he is probably warning you that he feels threatened and will protect himself if he must. If the hair on his back is standing up, that’s another warning. If a dog is growling or barking with his teeth showing, it means he is ready to bite. A dog’s warning signs mean that you’re doing something he doesn’t like, so stop doing it!


What you should do:

  • Freeze.
  • Count to five, slowly and silently.
  • Move away very slowly, sideways or backwards.
  • If the dog jumps on you, act like a rock by curling up into a ball and covering your face and head with your arms.


What you should NOT do:

  • Don’t stare at the dog — that means “I dare you to bite me!”
  • Don’t run, jump or wave your arms around.
  • Don’t scream.
  • Don’t throw anything at the dog or hit him.


If a Dog Bites You

If you’re bitten by a dog, or any animal, you should:

  • Have an adult take you to a doctor.
  • Wash the wound with soap and warm water.
  • Write down the type, size and color of the animal. Was it wearing a collar? Did it have any identification tags? Where were you when you were bitten? Where did the animal go?
  • Report all of this information to the animal control agency in your city or county.

Thanks to our friends at the
Dumb Friends League of Denver for the use of these informative tips.

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