Dog safety for children

Why dogs bite - an article for your children...

With more and more dog attacks being made public news it is especially important for children to learn why dogs may bite, and what to do to keep themselves safe.

Dogs may bite for one or more of the following reasons:


Quick movements and sudden or loud noises can be scary for a dog, and they may try to bite to protect themselves.  If a dog thinks you might be going to hurt them, and they can't get away, they may try to bite.

What you should do:

When you are around any dog, move slowly and be quiet.  Always ask a dog's owner for permission before you pat it and if the owner says you can, reach out slowly with the palm of your hand facing down - let the dog come to you and sniff you.  Try and stand side-on to the dog and always pat the dog under the chin first.  If a dog is sleeping, leave it alone and come back when it is awake.  If the owner is not there, DO NOT pat the dog.


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.  Because dogs 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.  If a dog gets too excited, freeze until it calms down, then walk away.  Take some time out before returning to play to give you both a chance to calm down.


When a dog is in pain, they don't understand where the pain is coming from.  If you touch it, the dog may think you are causing the pain and could bite you to try and make it stop.

What you should do:

If a dog is acting like it is sick or hurt, leave it alone.  Tell an adult and then together you get help for the dog.


A dog may protect anything that's important to it - toys, bedding, food, people, territory, even its car!  If you come near something that the dog feels is off-limits to you he may try to bite you to make you leave the thing alone.

What you should (or should not) do:

Never go into a yard where there is a dog you don't know.  Don't reach through a car window or a fence to pat a dog you don't know, don't pat a dog that is tied up or confined and don't touch a dog's property. 


Watch and listen for the warnings that a dog will give you to let you know when it is upset.  If its ears are laid back against its head and the legs are stiff this is probably a warning that the dog is feeling threatened and will protect itself if need be.  If the hair on the back of its neck is standing up on end this can be another warning.  If a dog is growling, barking, showing its teeth and/or staring at you this may also mean it is ready to bite.

If you feel like a dog is about to bite you

  • Stop moving and look only at the ground
  • 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 with your arms

What you should NOT do

  • Don't stare at the dog - this means "Go on, 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 it


  • Dogs don't actually like cuddles - tight hugs or face-to-face contact can make a dog feel scared
  • A wagging tail does not always mean a dog "likes you" or is "happy to see you"