Family Pet Bites Your Child?

Updated on December 06, 2011
S.S. asks from Memphis, TN
27 answers

I have a wonderful 3 year old, 75 lb boxer! Best dog, however, recently he has "nipped" at my youngest daughter. Background: He has a wonderful temperament and has always been playful and nothing bothers him. We went on vacation and he stayed at a doggy camp where dogs play freely. He came home with a few small scratches but nothing serious enough for me to call the camp and inquire. He likes to sleep on the couch with my 5 year old. Half on the couch and half in her lap. The last time she has tried to nudge (probably more like a push) him off the couch so she can get up he has nipped. I do not believe he is trying to bite and I am not afraid of him but it was not playful and I don't like it. This has happened twice. So, obviously, he is no longer allowed on the couch. So, this morning my little one is playing with him and they are having a good time and I mention that we shouldn't play so rough with him, in light of his recent new behavior. I told the girls that if he bites someone, no matter who is at fault, he has to live somewhere else with someone else. I do not want to live with a dog that bites. This sent both girls into tears and I feel horrible. I stand by what I said but was it to harsh to tell them that? Also, would you keep a pet that has bitten your child or you?

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So What Happened?

Thank you all. You all have given me some good feedback.
I have talked with my girls and we all feel better! The dog is OFF the couch and they will be mindful of their interactions with him. I apologized for being to harsh and assured them that getting rid of the dog would be a last resort.
I will look into some training for him and keep a close eye on him. He is genuinely a great dog and I do think this has something to do with camp and I hope in time he won't nip anymore. I love my pup but my girls come first. Thanks again.

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answers from Dallas on

NILF. Nothin in life is free. He is exerting his dominance over her. No couch as of now. He gerts nothing, no petting, no laps, no food until invited to. Behavior trainers can do wonders with most dogs.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I would work with them all, the kids and the dog, on more appropriate behavior. They all need to be trained if he's started nipping. He's 75lbs and what might be a lesser bite to him could be serious for them. If you think this was due to doggy camp, then I wouldn't send him back there. I'd find another sitter or place to send him. You should also rule out any new medical issues. My aunt's doberman was gentle with kids, but when she started going blind in one eye, you couldn't come up to her on that side without her getting upset. In the end, they put her to sleep because they had a toddler who just couldn't understand what side of the dog was "right".

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answers from Lexington on

When I was around 10 we had a German shepherd. She seemed like a good dog, but one day she nipped me. My mother found a new home for her right away. A couple years we got a very gentle collie.

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answers from San Francisco on

A dog that is nipping at your child is a dog who believes he is superior in the "pack" to the child. He needs to understand through training that this is simply not the case - he is the low dog in the pack, and the kids rank above him. A good first step is not allowing him to sit on the couch, where the family sits. I would get him to a good dog trainer right away, and after you have been working with the trainer, I'd also include the kids in some of the training so they can understand how to address the dog. Bottom line, dogs are pack animals and understand things in terms of a pack mentality. Once he understands his place in the pack, he will not bite anymore, but you need to take this very seriously very quickly so it doesn't escalate. Meanwhile, do not leave your children unattended with the dog.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

i agree with Catherine C. my first thought was if our dog showed any aggression whatsoever towards my son i'd be on her like white on rice. apparently your dog got into a scrap at the doggy camp and now she thinks she's moved up the ladder a bit. she will need to be shown it ain't so. she will need some training and you should probably brush up on pack mentality, but in the meantime, i hope you disciplined her when she did it. not letting her on the couch is good, but think about when a dog is putting another dog in its place -that dog is on the ground in a submissive position and it looks pretty violent. you have to speak to them in their own language. NO WAY should she think she is above people in the ranking. i don't think i'd be putting a dog down for something like this, but it's on you as the adult to put the dog back in her place. good luck!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I am a veterinarian and I would NEVER keep a pet that had bitten my son. It only takes a second for a child to lose an eye or have a facial bite requiring multiple surgical procedures. When my son was 6 months old we visited a craniofacial specialist to assess his plagiocephaly (fine, no treatment needed) and other than us and 1 child with an obvious cleft issue, ALL the other kids were there (and it was a packed waiting room) for facial dog bites. Some of them were on their 5th and 6th procedures. Most were bitten by their own dogs, most had never shown aggression before. So while I would spend whatever it cost for my pet to have chemotherapy or orthopedic surgery or whatever he needed health wise, I would NOT keep an aggressive pet.

You also must realize that options for placing a pet that is nipping at children are limited. You are legally and ethically obligated to disclose why you are placing the dog. You might get lucky and find a rescue that can place with an adults only foster family but you might not.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dover on

I think maybe it just upset your kids to hear that they may lose their pet. Just remind them that is a last resort but it is important that they don't play rough if they want to keep him. Good dog or not, he is still an animal. When they sleep or are eating, the kids should probably leave him alone.

As for if I would keep a pet that has bitten one of us, I truly depends on the situation. If it is a nip/quick bite as in a reflex to them trying to take food from the dog or something that seemed completely accidental, I probably would. If it was an agressive bite or attack situation, absolutely not.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I think it depends on the situation. We rescued a 1 yr old dog (border collie/springer mix). She is very sweet, never barks, and if you give her a treat, you can go right up to her and take it, and she doesn't bat an eye. Now, a few months after we had her, my kids spent a few hours alone with her, ages 15 and 11. I arrived home to find my 11 y.o. son's face bleeding...he told me it just happened, he didn't know why she bit him, etc. As the details of the story came out on the way to the ER, I came to find out the dog heard me pull up and tried to run to the door and greet me, but my son decided to hold her down so she couldn't move. So she bit him. We took him to the ER because I wanted to be sure the wound was cleaned properly. He did have about 6 stitches. We called the vet immediately (we have a history with him, our other dog went there for close to 17 years). You know what the vet said? That my son needed obedience lessons, not the dog. He said the dog did that as a way to communicate and that if the dog was vicious she would have gone for his neck and not let go. Also the dog didn't chase my son and bite him, she was being pinned. We were wary, but there has never been another episode like this at all. Also my son does not hold her down ever when she wants to move. So I think you can't have a blanket statement on what should be done, every situation is unique. Talk to your vet and see what they say.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Orlando on

A little off subject but I'd like to say that it's not normal for your doggy to come back from doggy camp with any type of scratches. Don't take him back there again if you do keep your dog. I would recommend obedience training :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

This is a bad bite waiting to happen.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Being that your little one is playing rough with the dog...and the dog has no other way but to defend himself the only way a dog can..I feel that you need to sit with the kids and talk to them about being nice..and that when they are rough, it hurts the pup....I too went through this when I had my girls..My husband decided to step in and he and the dog went to a training class that a local park held for dogs that came before the kids... and it was great.Our dog could be in the middle of eating when his bowl would be taken away..he was trained to do nothing. He too would get a bone...and then have it taken away right out of his mouth and was to do nothing..All those things a little one might do..a little tug on the ear...or tail. He was trained to yelp or bark but not bite...It worked great. Our daughter could give him a bone, play with him, and when she went to grab the toy, or food.. he would release and sit. The two of them are best buds..she dresses him up and they have tea parties.. He looks dapper in a fancy hat, boa and pearls... You might want to see if there are some classes like that.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

Read & institute the NILIF (nothing in life is free) training:

I wouldn't leave the children alone in the room with the dog, and I wouldn't even allow interaction with the dog unless he & the children are completely supervised---that is, that you can be right there, guiding the interaction, and that you have your attention 100% on the situation. The rest of the time, the dog should be in the dog's designated spot (his own bed/crate), where he will not be bothered by the kids, and the kids know to leave him alone if he goes to that spot.

I would proceed very cautiously here. Even if he seems fine, you need to supervise all interactions. And really, the NILIF will help (everyone needs to do it, not just you). And no more games of tug of war with the dog.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Well first you will have to determine what kind of nip or bite it is. Aggression? Fear? Dominance? Annoyance? Once determined then it has to be dealt with. Not to give the dog any guidance to why it nipped, then he is just going to keep on doing it. Is he neutered? Sometimes intact males will really become a bit dominant with family. He sees you or your husband as his leader, he sees the kids as his litter-mates, or pack-mates. In a pack dogs vie, and deal with stress, or anger. With nips and bites. If your kids were another dog they would submit, and it would hurt them cause they would have fur and skin to protect. Well our kids don't have that and at 5 they are eye and face level to a boxers mouth. Thats why most kids get bit in the face when a bite occurs. Dogs in a fight will always go for most vulnerable spots, face, ears, neck, and extremities. You dog needs some training as well as the kids. Its understandable your kids are sad, but they also need to understand the boundaries and limits of a dog. If your un-able to provide a safe environment for your kids as WELL as the dog, then you need to find him a new home.

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answers from Nashville on

My dog bit my child. It was awful. Fortunately the dog is small and the damage slight. For a moment I considered strangling the dog. I didn't but we changed the "dog rules". We NEVER allow the dog on furniture or out while there is food since her agression is food related. We did lots of dominance retraining with her. We are careful.



answers from Seattle on

Would I keep the pet? That depends. I I felt that I could separate the dog from the kids and make sure they are always 100% supervised when together, then maybe I would keep the pet.

Realistically I don't think that I would ever feel that I was able to keep my daughter 100% safe once that line has been crossed - so I would get rid of him.

You may be sad, your kids may be sad... but in the end it is your primary responsibility to keep your children safe.

Good luck.



answers from Huntington on

I had a St. Bernard mix, so I took discipline serious from puppyhood (it is a WHOLE different ball game when a little dog misbehaves than a big one!!)

I have not read any of your posts, but it sounds like your dog sees kids as his equal (or lower?) in the pack, not as above him. I think you need to see what some of the experts say about elevating your children's status in his eyes. I don't want to tell you what to do, but we always disciplined vocally for safety issues (I am not usually a 'yeller') because our dog responded. Also, it was not hard for us, since we had been pretty strict with him as a puppy.

Good luck to you!!



answers from Wichita on

I had a 5 year old mixed lab/german shorthair who I had raised since he was 8 weeks old. He was 2 years old when my daughter was born. My other dog is a full lab. Wyatt (the mix) was always very leery of my daughter and just avoided her. Last spring, when he was 5 I had to put him down because of his aggressive behavior. He became very skiddish around my daughter and my boyfriend's children. The kids were 5, 2 and 2. The 2 year olds were right at eye level with him. He had started to attack my older dog unprovoked and started to "talk" or "grumble" at the kids when they would try to get near him. I tried discipline, putting him in his place in the pack, neutering him, separating him from the other dog etc. Nothing worked. He growled at me and barred his teeth the first time and I decided to try to find him a good home...with no luck. A few months later he attacked my other dog unprovoked again and then turned on me. He snapped at me and would have had my arm had I not gotten out of the way in time. Needless to say the next morning, my boyfriend took him to the vet to put him down. I loved that dog with all my heart, but as a mom I had to protect my family. As another person said on this posting, it can only take a second for serious damage to happen to a child and I just couldn't risk this. It was a hard decision to make, but I don't regret it.



answers from Baton Rouge on

I had a dog that bit my child when she was a toddler. The first time, she was trying to take a toy out of his mouth, and it was only a nip that barely broke the skin. I gave him a pass on that one, since she was trying to take something out of his mouth. The second time, he jumped on the table and tried to take her breakfast. I had him put down the same day.
He started this behavior out of the blue - up until then, he had been very protective of her, and had even allowed her to take things out of his mouth before.


answers from Washington DC on

Friends of ours have a dog who bites. We went there for dinner and were told not to touch the dog or even make eye contact with the dog. None of us were comfortable. The dog was aggressive and mean.
That dog has now bitten a second good friend on the hand without provocation. If it were me, that dog would have been gone a LONG time ago.


answers from St. Louis on

Nope. First time he bit would be the last. Sorry but my children are more important than a dog. I realize some people say that their dogs are their children but if you care about your dogs the SAME amount (ie: enough to keep the dog around) then there is something wrong with that situation. Just my .02!



answers from Tampa on

Just today we sent our 11yr old lab/chow/?whipet to live with my in-laws. She's always been anxious & has nipped a few times. She did ok with our older son (4yr) for awhile, but has nipped him several times probably in the last couple years (3 times more recently were enough to make him cry, but not leave a mark) and now we also have a 9mo old who has become very mobile which makes her increasingly nervous. She also is a "food guarder" and in the past has nipped our neice enough to put a hole in her clothes but didn't bite her. She has been on a mild sedative for awhile and when I took her back to get her something stronger (she was following my husband & I around constantly, picking at her feet all the time unless the kids were not around), the vet said that she (the dog) has given plenty of warning and it is probably time to rehome her or put her down. We would NOT put her down and our house was always crazy trying to protect the kids yet keep her happy and calm. So my in-laws agreed that she could live with them. Our kids do go over there, but we're hoping that with the new med & limited exposure to the kids, that things will be ok. If she were to EVER bite, she would be put down. We love our dog, but our kids come FIRST. I have seen some bad dog bites as a pediatric nurse, but the last one was the turning point for me & I was really afraid for my kids - I didn't want her to "snap" one day and attack one of them. Since your dog is a puppy & your girls are older, things may be ok with some training of the dog & teaching the kids to not bother him. But definitely watch closely and rehome him with any worsening of behavior. Good luck!



answers from Lexington on

i would first take dog to the vet to ensure that nothing is physically wrong. Sometimes dogs hide that they are not feeling so great, but their tolerance for additional stress is reduced. If there is nothing physically wrong, I would ask the vet to recommend someone in your area who is really good with dogs and have him/her evaluate the dog to see if there is some avoidable trigger, or to see if pup can be trained to tolerate the stimulation from the kids. Boxers are known for being high strung, so it may simply be a matter of getting him to tolerate more - but you may need a trainer to help with this.



answers from Louisville on

of course i would keep my dogs!!!! however you say nip not full out bite. i would get a spray bottle and if she nips again spray her she will get the connection fast


answers from San Antonio on

My boxer has never nippped - at me, at my neice when she was a baby, nor my son (son is 3.5. Boxer was 11 just a few months ago when I had to put him down due to old age and bad legs), never nipped at anyone except the pool cleaning guy who came into the backyard with no notice. So I am very surprised to hear that your boxer did nip, as that is totally not in their normal personality.

Perhaps it was harsh on the girls. I mean, they can't predict what may cause the dog to nip. They may feel like they can't touch him or play with him at all w/o him nipping. So they may feel like this is a no-win situation.

Perhaps there is an alternative? - the dog be an outside dog, he go live at Grandma's house instead, the dog goes to obedience school? Perhaps time will make a difference. The dog learned to cope with the other dogs at the camp by nipping at the other dogs to defend himself. NOW, he's treating your girls like those other dogs at the camp. Perhaps the longer you keep him away from other dogs, the more he'll 'come around' and return to his normal self and treat your girls they way he always has.

Oh, and would I keep a dog that bit a child or myself? NO. A nip - maybe. It depends on the reason and what the child was doing to warrant that behavior. (My nephew, age 1, the chihuahua nips at his hand, but does not bite, does not draw blood, the baby doesn't even cry. He just sits, phased, and stops pestering the dog).



answers from Dallas on

Maybe check into local obedience classes to see if there's some dynamic you can work on to keep the dog from feeling freaked out. It sounds like it's the kids that are influencing the behavior for the most part. He shouldn't have to pay for the kiddo behavior. THEY need to learn as much as the dog does, since they can chose how to act and the dog can't.



answers from Louisville on

I would not keep a dog that nips at a child. I was with my kids and my sis's dog growled and nipped at my sons hand. I was so scared. They got rid of the dog the next week. Your dog is big. There might not be a second chance.



answers from San Antonio on

My mom had to have one of our dogs put down as he started biting and it was like once he started he just couldn't stop...he bit my Grandmother, he bit me, and when he bit my foster sister was when he was put down. When I say bite I mean broke skin (hurt like nothing had ever hurt before) and bled awfully.

Saying that we have a cat...she is old 13 plus years old and she is a biter. She has nipped at our kids, but we put up with her old fussy self as she will not be with us much longer. She avoids the kids and they avoid her.

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