April 22, 2008,
C.N. asks from Norristown, PA on February 11, 2008
Help! My Dog Bit My Son
I considered myself "very meticulous" about watching my son around our dogs. We have 2 dogs - a 3yo black lab and a 2.5 year old lab mix. My son, who is 18 months, loves dogs and may even think he is a dog. However, this morning, he approached my dog who was sleeping on his dog bed -- not sure exactly what my son did it was soo quick, but the dog bit him.
The next thing I know I picked my son up and noticed the blood on his face and held a compress on it to stop it from bleeding. Once I thought I had the blood under control, I examined the wound and then went to find the dog -- by that time the dog (my lab mix) was hiding under the kitchen table. I grabbed him by the collar and put him in his kennel down the basement. My other dog (the black lab) followed with her tail between her legs.
I am upset, shocked and embarrassed. I took my son to daycare this morning after washing the wound and putting neosporin on it. Daycare said he couldn't have an open wound and I took my son to the ER for treatment. They washed it again and put "glue" on the wound instead of stitches. He is now on Augmentin (antibiotic). BTW: the wound is on his face -- the big cut is on his forehead and there are little lacerations around his eye. Not tremendous damage, but its a sight.
Anyone faced this before?
Info on the dog -- he is 2.5, neutered, had him since he was a puppy, he's attended basic obedience class and is seen by the vet 2X's a year. All shots up to date and I had him temperment tested 2Xs alread b/c I was worried about my son and the dogs.
So What Happened?™
Thank you for ALL of your responses -- they were certainly mixed, but all appreciated. Here's what happened (segment 1) and where we go from here. Since I took my son to the ER, I had to file dogbite paperwork for Montgomery County. The dog was to be in "quarantine" for 10 days. Since he was a family pet, I could keep him at home with supervised visits outside to use the facilities, but he wasn't allowed to go anywhere except the vet. I had a follow up visit for my son, and the pediatrician said his dermabond "suture" looked good, no infection and healing well. My son's other cuts healed very quickly, nothing noticable around the eye now. (BTW: He fell at daycare the next day, reopened his cut and the doc said there was nothing more we could do until the dermabond came off b/c the cut didn't "bleed out".. instead it formed a big bruise and the dermabond helped "clot" the new wound. It's been about a week and everything does look pretty good now.)
I spoke to several behavioralists, trainers and of course, our vet, groomers and boarding kennel. I also asked family, friends and neighbors what they thought -- if they ever thought my dog was capable of doing that. The groomers, vet and kennel said they never had a problem with my dog, that he was just the most friendly, loving animal and they were suprised. The behaviorists both said he'd need a lot of work as it didn't seem like my dog had any respect for his place, below my son, in the family. They said they had to base the incident on the location of the bite and my dog's first response was to bite.
We (meaning my husband from afar and myself) have decided to try to get my dog placed in a home without young children. My vet offerred to help as well and put us in touch with an animal rescue. In the meantime, I am going to start taking him to the behaviorist ($850 for 10-12 sessions) and a trainer. I still do allow my son to interact (with lots of supervision) with the dogs. I went about a few things wrong in my household and that's what I'd like to share with you... this is from the investment and research I've already spent on the issue with experts:
1. I didn't give my dog(s) space away from our common living area to just "get away" from us. My dog should have had his own sleeping space where he could have gone -- not necessarily just his kennel.
2. I have always kissed and hugged on my dogs and my son witnessed this. Apparantly, in the dog world this kissing and hugging doesn't equate and some dogs get very confused and frusterated by this. Don't get me wrong, dogs need affection, but it should be a good pat, scratch or belly rub.
3. My son was just tooooo involved, charged up and hyper when "rough housing" with the dogs. Even my good, olde' black lab shouldn't be played with this way, at least not while my son was sooo young.
I hope this whole experience helps you and, again, thanks for all your responses....
C.H. answers from Philadelphia on February 12, 2008
Hi, I can sympathize with your situation. I have been down this road. But I will tell you it was OUR fault our dog bit, in the respect of training or lack of. You and your son did nothing wrong. Babies will be babies and dogs will be dogs. I know from experience that the dog views the baby as lower than him. You will need to be very watchful(I Know that is hard with an 18 mos old baby, I have twins, and had 2 dogs for 8 years b4 the babies came). I made sure my kids had a safe area, the dogs were allowed to enter but were trained that they had their area where they could have there space without being bothered or tugged on by the children. they would pull on them sometimes, and growl..but were told to leave and go to their space, where they could sleep or whatever, in peace. The problem came with our 3rd dog. We got her from a shelter and didn't have any formal training(Our big mistake) and she had issues, I guess when we got her, from the beginning if you stood over her, while sleeping, would growl. As time went on, my son who was about 9 at the time, would tease her at times, put her in headlocks...but would love her too..and one day she was sleeping and he went over to her, and her lack of trusting him, she got up and lunged at him and bit part of his lower lip. Alot of people did and will tell you to put the dog down. But that is NOT the right thing to do..it is our responsibility to train our dogs to give them discipline(not harsh) to show them you are the leader, including your baby. You must start now..to teach your son to not disturb a sleeping dog, as that startles the dog. Try to read some books or go back to a trainer, who can advise you the best way to handle this. Even at 18mos old you have to show the dogs who is leader..the dogs place is at the bottom of the totem pole and they are really much happier there. We have a golden now...she has a pushy personality, but everyday we do down/stays.make her do something before she plays, gets love and affection..we love her to death ..and it is hard NOT to just love her and love her..but it has to be earned. Every day you should be implementing leadership. As your son grows older have him participate in training(training is a lifetime job for your dog to establish their place), help him care for the dog..with feeding, grooming..to show the dog he is his caretaker and boss. Never with harshness, which puts fear in the dog, which put them on defense and will bite. good luck, don't give up on your dog..he deserves a good life, just go forward with caution and training, as hard as it is, keep a watchful eye, try to keep your baby and the dog seperated at times when you can't watch or when the dog is sleeping.. Contact a trainer, a few sessions will get you started establishing your family as the leader.
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A.F. answers from Pittsburgh on February 12, 2008
Ok I didn't read the other responses to this b/c well I am sure quite a few would have made me pretty upset. I am sure you get alot of - oh no question dog has to go - and stuff like that.
However, unless they are in the situation then they just can't understand.
My dog has bit my son once and once only. My dog was also sleeping and I think my son scared him (he was somewhere around a year old) somehow and the dog bit him - it was really quick not a vicious I am going to kill you bit, it sounds like your dog did the same thing a quick bit.
When dogs bit like that they are trying to scare/warn the person to leave them alone - THEY ARE NOT TRYING TO HURT THE PERSON. I talked to a vet whom I trust alot and that is what they told me, and I also got many other opinions and also agreed. Of course I also got the GET RID OF THE DOG comments.
My son's bit was by his eye and bled a little but did not require stitches, we did not take him to the doctor but it was just a small cut. I am sorry your sons was a little more severe. I still believe the dog was not intending to hurt your son.
When dogs want to hurt they bit and don't let go and keep attacking, obviously that is not what happened in this situation.
I would definately keep watch on the dog, ours we took to the vet, and turned out he has a thyroid problem which can make them irritated and angry sometimes (he is now on meds and has been fine since then, even when my now 2 year old does stuff that well is definately rough). So I would just keep the dog and the child seperate for awhile - and work on getting your son reaquainted and aware of the dogs. I don't think this requires you getting rid of the dog, but if that is what you think is best (you know the dog better than I do) then of course you need to do what YOU think is best.
One last thought - it is a known fact - dogs live in the moment - they do not dwell on the past - they do not really think about the past - so I do not see this as a thing your dog will continue to do just b/c he did it once. Again, I think it was a scare bite, and that it most likely wasn't aggression and won't happen again. So good luck and I hope your son feels better soon (my sons seemed to heal fast, no scars or anything, so I hope your sons wound is the same)
P.s. My husband is in the Army too! If you have any questions or want to talk let me know!
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E.B. answers from Philadelphia on February 12, 2008
This is not the dogs fault by any means, as a dog trainer of over 10 years, I see this more times than not. Dogs don't speak our language, they don't have hands to push people away. This is how we would react if we were suddenly awoken from a dead sleep. He knew it was the wrong response, but hes a dog. Your other dog knew something bad happened, they can tell by our body language & and tone of voice.
I hope your son heals up quickly. You have to move on. Its done it over, dogs don't dwell on things like this. My advice, sleeping dogs need their own space. I.E. crate, room, something that will allow them to feel like they are safe like if they lived in the wild, like a cave feeling. No use yelling at the dog now, he wouldn't understand what it is he did wrong, sure take him to the scene of the crime and tell him hes bad...STILL he wont get it. They don't have the capacity to think back to what they were doing at that time & place to understand that that action was wrong. All your dog knows is he came to you, and he got in trouble. If I were him I wouldn't want to come to you again.
Training classes never end, brush up training is always recommended, even for the best behaved dogs. We don't work our dogs nearly as much as we use to, so training is a good outlet for the energy they retain due to centuries of having them be house pets vs working dogs. So keep all that in mind. If you get rid of the dog like so many are going to recommend, make sure you find a good reputable rescue that can find him the best home for him. Good luck.
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S.H. answers from Philadelphia on February 13, 2008
Hello C.; My heart goes out to you. My youngest daughter was bitten by our German Shepherd when she was 10 years old. The dog was seven years at the time of the incident. As with your situation, it all happened so quickly that I didn't know exactly why the dog bit her. I do know that my daughter had some friends over and one of the kids gave the dog some food. My daughter knowing that the dog should not eat what was given to him, tried to take the food away; that's when he lashed out at her and bit her in the face. Never before had he ever showed this type of behavior. So, as you see, I understand completely what you are going through. Be thankful that the ER Doctor glued your son's wounds. It will probably leave no scars. My daughter's wounds were glued and stitched by a plastic surgeon. Now, years later, she has no evidence on her face. We did not have our dog put down, much to the dismay of others. My daughter and him remained best buds for the rest of his life. I can't explain why he bit her. With my experience as a vet tech and groomer; I have seen much unexplained behavior in dogs. It sounds like you are a very responsible pet owner. That's a good thing. Naturally, you are going to be extra cautious when your son interacts with the dogs. But, be mindful, if you are overly cautious, the dogs will sense this and become jealous and confused. One of the biggest mistakes people make when introducing a child to existing pets is forgetting that a dogs mind operates almost like a childs. Remember, unlike our human kids, we can only communicate with our dogs through actions and positive reinforcement. So, if they feel slighted or forgotten they might get an attitude and act out in some form. You've done all the right things in hine sight. Just remember you are the pack leader and your dogs have a need to know that they are still part of your pack. In time, only you will know if your dog is safe to be around your kids. Since he's not by nature an agressive dog, I wouldn't rush to remove him from your family. But, for a while you will have to be diligent when your son and the dog interact for your son's safety, and your own peice of mind. I wish you good luck and hope it works out in a good way for all concerned. Also, God bless you for being a military wife, and may God bless your husband for what he does for our country, and may God keep him safe.
Kind Regards, S.
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H.F. answers from Pittsburgh on February 12, 2008
While this is very upsetting and the tendency is to blame the dog, it sounds like your dog did not intend to hurt your son. Think of what you would do if you were violently awoken in your bed while in a deep sleep. Your dogs actions were of remorse. While I think you may need to take more care with your son being around the dogs (put their beds and food somewhere not readily accessible to your son), I don't think it is actually as big a deal as you think. It sounds like his injury is more ugly than serious. If they dog was actually attacking your son instead of just protecting himself from what he thought was an attack, your son would be a lot more hurt.
I know this doesn't sound very comforting. My parents dogs and my sisters dogs have bitten my daughter and my son on occasion. One of the big differences between their bites and your sons is that they are all little dogs. So little damage was done.
The big thing to remember is to watch your dogs and your child when they are around each other. Never leave them alone together without supervison. Your son is still learning how to treat the dog. From your message, your dog was sound asleep when you were treating your son's wound. He went and hid in fear and shame of what he did. I truly believe your dog loves your son and was upset that he had hurt him.
While you have to decide what is best for your family, my advice is to be a little more diligent with monitoring their interactions. I would put their beds and food someplace out of your sons reach. This could mean gates to section of parts of your home or keeping the dogs in your basement when you are busy with other things. How you do this is up to you. Your dog needs a safe place to retreat to away from your 18 month old. They need to feel secure and able to rest as well. You, also, need to keep working with your 18 month old to teach him what behavior is appropriate with the dogs and what is not.
Honestly, I don't think this is your dog turning vicious as some responses have implied. This was your scared dog reacting intuitively to being startled awake. Ultimately, you must make the final decision on what to do. However, it sounds like your dog realized what happened almost immediately and was remorseful. However, you know your child and your pet best. If you are not comfortable with the dog anymore, then by all means look for another home for him. If you are like me, you probably still think the dog is worthy of trusting as being part of your family with adult supervision. However, I would try to give the dog his own space as well.
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C.G. answers from Scranton on February 12, 2008
I dont know if you are going to like this advice but really you only have two choices you were very lucky he didnt do worse damage but if he did it once he will do it again...you are either going to have to keep him away from your son and i dont mean just keep an eye on them together i mean never in the same room together or you need to get rid of him...now before you think this is from a non dog lover guess again...my dog is a big part of my family...i would die if anything happened to him...but my son does come first and for as much as i love spike if he ever did anything to hurt my son he would be out faster then you could say boo....I say this because i know of a story where a dog was watching a ham being taken out of the oven and the familys little boy (the boy and dog grow up together)(around 7) went to give him a hug and the dog bit him so bad in the face he is going to need many surgerys to fix what the dog did...and the police told the family the dog had to be put down because if he could bite a family member he would bite anyone. I hope things work out for you...you have a lot on your plate and i know you dont need this also...
L.H. answers from Philadelphia on February 12, 2008
Both of my sons have been bitten by a dog. One at a young age and the other a coulpe of years ago. The one that got bitten a couple of years ago had it right on his for head right in the middle. The er used supper glue to glue the flap down and To day they both are doing good. No real fear of dogs. They have learned how to act around the dogs more now and then before. Your son is young enough that the scar will heal to almost nothing. Show no fear to the dogs and your son will show no fear to them. Thou he might be a little afraid at first. Best of Luck
P.F. answers from Philadelphia on February 12, 2008
So sorry to hear about this!
I have 2 dogs, a 8 1/2 yo black lab and a 1 year old dalmation mix. We also have cats and 2 kids, age 12 and 6. I have been brought up with big dogs my whole life and I have to tell you, poke at your dog. What I mean by that is you, as the adult, bother the dog at meal times and sleep times. My parents did it and so do we. We have crates for the dogs and our kids knew not to touch the crates but as kids do...they will touch the crate. So we would grab the crate and shake and jiggle it, we would stick our fingers in it and anything else that would fit to bug the dog(s) and when the dog(s) would be eating I would pull their tail, grab their coller, ears etc. If the dog snapped I would yell "No! NO!" I would also pounce on the dog(s) while they were sleeping, sneak up on them etc. They are soooo used to being bothered that they don't care anymore. My son put 2 crayons up our labs nose when he was 2 years old and our dog walked over to me and sat down in front of me and looked at me. I removed the crayons (ewww) gave her a hug and kiss scratched her head and said "Good Girl!" and then the dog went into her crate and pulled the door over with her paw. My son was told of course not to put anything in the dogs nose, but the dog NEVER bit or even complained. Our dogs know that their safe haven is the crate and when they are done playing they go into the crate. We roll around with our dogs and so do the kids and when the dogs are done playing they will put their paw on our forehead, that means "stop" to us, the humans. LOL! We respect that and then they will get up and lay down in the crate. Now, we do not ever offer treats without saying in a sharp voice "NICE" and bedtime for the dogs is "Night-Night!" a few small commands work great, it does not confuse the dog and they love it. Repetition is key. There is also no sofa climbing and the second floor is off limits except for bathtime to the dogs. They are very good and everyone is happy. I also let the dogs sniff baby clothes of my friends and family and they have NEVER even chewed up our shoes, toys etc. They have their own balls and big rubber toys and chew ropes, they never try to even take anything of ours. Now, they do like to be spoiled with a fresh, hot from the dryer, smelling like downey, blanket for bedtime...and then they pass out sleeping. Small simple rules seem to work. I have had Wems. Chesapeake bay ret. beagles, german shep., labs, large mixed breeds and dalmations. This method has worked for all of those breeds. One thing to always remember...NEVER NEVER NEVER hit your dog, a dogs nose, back, hips are very sensitive and prone to serious injury and will provoke a bite in self defense. Sharp commands work best. The decision is yours about the dog, but, it seems to me the dog did show shame for bitting so maybe a little change in your training method would work. But if you do not have time there is no shame in trying to find a new home for this dog and be prepared for the other dog to act out for missing the one that is removed.
Good luck with this and I hope your son heals up great. Hang in there!