Feeling Awful ... About Child's Injury.

Updated on October 29, 2010
J.F. asks from Woodbridge, VA
29 answers

Last night my 1-year-old was playing with our dog. She tried to take a toy away from him and he snapped at her and grazed her eye lead. It caused some swelling and a slight scratch. But I panicked, at first not knowing if he had damaged her eyeball. She was fine after 30 seconds. I on the other hand, broke down, shaking and crying. At first it was out of fear that she was really injured. Then I felt betrayed by this dog who we've spoiled rotten and loved unconditinally since he was 3 months old -- almost five years now. He is the sweetest, most well-behaved dog, and he has always been so loving and protective of our daughter. He's never been yelled at, much less hit, and the idea that this gentle giant could turn on us, breaks my heart. He's gone through obedience training. His shown a lot of tolerance our our very mobile, very active 1-year-old. I've read a million things today about aggression and about how if the dog intended to bite her or hurt her, he would have. That this snip was a warning sign. But today, I'm distraught over this. Every time I look at her poor eye, I blame myself for not watching more closely. I get sick thinking of the worst case scenario. I tear up at the thought of getting rid of this dog who we see as our first born. I am obsessing over it to the point that I feel sick. I guess I am just looking for a place to vent my feelings. My husband thinks it is not a big deal. And I don't want to tell my friends and family about this. I'm afraid of the judgement and the "I told you sos." Has anyone else gone through this? How did you handle it?

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So What Happened?

Writing this accomplished what it was suppose to -- in a very short time. I got what I expected. Mostly very good advice from people. And some comments that I feel are completely ignorant. Because a dog snips once doesn't mean he will do it again. That comes directly from my vet and pediatrician, who I've talked to since last night. The idea to "give the dog away" makes me sick. In this throw away culture we live in, where people get pets until the novelty wears off or they do something wrong and then throw them away, I expected that response. But reading it makes me realize how little I needed this advice. The truth is, as several people said it, she could have got hurt doing anything. Lord knows, she'll be bitten by other children dozens of times in her life. I need to be much more careful in the future. Because I can guarantee you one thing -- my daughter will grow up loving and being loved by our dog. I appreciate the respectful and helpful answers so many of you gave, even as I ignore the opinionated ones that offered no help.

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answers from Sacramento on

Why post on here if you don't want varying opinions? No one said anything rude, just shared their experiences and thier advice or what they would do. And now they are being called "ignorant?" I understand you are sensitive about the topic since you can't even bear to tell friends and family, but don't take it out on the people you did choose to share it with.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

two things should happen. You need to work on the dog in controlled conditions, where he learns that you (and eventually her) can take anything you want to take from him. And two it should be easier to teach daughter how to respect his things and his space, cause lets face, event he most loving parents need a break from a 1 year old.. But ultimately she need to to come higher up in the alpha list.

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answers from Dallas on

Well I'm going to tell you what I know from several years at a Vet's clinic.
With you stating that the dog spoiled and loved "unconditionally" raises some serious flags for a bad future ahead. A dog should never be treated like that. They are not human and should not be treated as such. I would suggest that maybe you watch a few episodes of the Dog Whisper to get what I am talking about ")
I am not saying that the future looks bleak but changes should be done if you don't want your dog to become a terror in your house. It has always been that if a dog shows signs of dominance (growling, snapping, lunging) and left unchallenged will evolve into something more. It is NEVER ok under any circumstance for a dog to snap. Even if food is involved with an unwise child.
My advice is too speak about this matter with your vet and let them advise you for some training. There are things that you can do that will help your dog understand his place in your home. He should be at the lowest end of your family chain and you need to establish that with him. It's not mean or cruel at all. Your just using human emotional reasoning instead of looking at it from a dogs perspective to control this situation.
You right, your dog has given your daughter a warning you need to react to it.
Hoping for the best,

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on


7 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I am not chastising you because I know how tough this situation is, but NO DOG should be trusted around children. I hate it when people say, Oh my dog is so good around kids, they could jump and pull his tail and he wouldn't do anything. Dogs have their limits, just like us humans and unfortunately someone ends up getting hurt when that limit has been reached. We had a dog that we finally had to find a new home because of they way he was with my daughter. My husband and I got him and immediately socialized and professionally trained him and he was great. So well behaved and so much fun. When my daughter was born when the dog was 3, we brought home a blanket that my daughter had laid on and let him get used to her smell. When we brought my daughter home, I made sure I greeted him right away and I always let him smell her so he could be comfortable around her. He was wonderful with her...until she started to walk. Once that started, he didn't like her. Eventually, he started to growl at her any time she would walk by him. He never snapped at her and even made a move towards her but after reading books and hiring trainers to come to our house, we knew that our daughters life or safety wasn't something we wanted to put at risk. It was extremely heartbreaking, but we found him a great home and still keep in touch with the new owner from time to time. I know that our dog was showing different signs, but now that yours has snapped once and gotten the upper hand on her, he will do it again. You have to decide if your daughters safety is something you are willing to gamble with. I know it is hard to think about getting rid of him, but what if he hurts her worse next time, how will you feel knowing that you knew he couldn't be trusted but you kept him around anyway. Tell your husband that this is a big deal. Dogs are animals and will do what instinct tells them. Your dog has shown dominance over your daughter and you and that is the worse thing that could happen. I am not giving you my opinion, I am giving you the facts. Trust me, we talked with so many professional trainers on this situation and even they said that we needed to find him a new home. Good luck to you, I know how hard this is, however, is it really a hard decision to protect your daughter?

6 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

no have not gone through but you might consider giving the dog away. if it happened once, it will happen again, and may turned out to be something more serious.
PS after reading your what happened wish i didn't respond at all. "opiniated ones?" didn't you ask for 'opinion?"
if i had written: oh mama don't feel bad, it's just an eye, she has two if she loses one, would you have preferred that better?
an aggressive dig should not be allowed around kids. and no, dogs will never be your kids. it's lunacy to think pets are children. My Lord.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Look, a kid can fall & get hurt when you have them by the hand. You can't prevent everything. BUT this is a good time to teach her about respecting the dog's toys and food.
I have a dog AND a child so I know where you're coming from.
You've gotta teach kids early NEVER to try to take anything away from a dog--ever. Don't blame the dog...he was, well....being a dog.
Good luck!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dover on

I am with Dawn B. on this. I understand that your dog is your 'first born child', but she's right about if he's done it once he'll do it again. Close friends of ours had 2 dogs, 1 black lab & 1 bull mastiff. The mastiff was one of the calmest, sweetest animals I have ever know, but he went after the baby. Our friends were heartbroken after not being able to find a new home for the animal within 24 hours and ended up having him put to sleep rather than allowing him the chance to do it again.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Oh goodness! I’m so sorry this happened and even though I do not have personal experience this same exact thing happened to my neighbor! Her daughter was about 2 yrs old when their golden retriever first snapped at her causing a scratch on her hand to bleed. Her dog was just as you described yours. She was older and the sweetest dog ever.

Nothing again happened for awhile so maybe the Mom was more relaxed about it, but one day she heard her daughter screaming. The dog had attacked her daughter and bit her on the wrist so hard that they had to take her to the emergency room. This always stuck with me because I remember the day they had to put the dog down and she was crying saying no one, not even family would come over to their house again until they got rid of the dog.

I’m sorry but because of that experience I would have to agree with those that say he may do it again, and maybe worse next time.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

looks like you have gotten a lot of responses, but I just wanted to throw in my 2 cents! We had a dog for about 7 yrs before my baby sister was born. The sweetest little dog, very smart and gentle. But when my sister got a little older- around 1&2 she was learning to walk and started to pull the dogs tail. Dogs will be tolerant up to a point, but when they get hurt it's a natural reaction to nip, and my little sister did get nipped at. We had to watch her and teach her to be "soft" with the dog. It's just how they learn. I think your dog was just letting you and your daughter know that what she did hurt him. He doesn't' sound aggressive, but I would take extra time with your daughter and help her to be "soft" with the dog. You will have to do this many, many times- but each time the dog comes and she wants to touch him, take her hand and help her pet him and tell her "we are soft with the puppy. we don't pull," help her to play with the dogs toys the right way. "We throw the toy for the puppy and wait for him to bring it back to us" but don't leave her alone with the dog- she is still too little for him to recognize her as a human. It will take time, but it will be worth it!
Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

You need to learn what there is to learn and move on. Here are some learning points:
1. when you give your dog a toy or a treat keep dog and baby seperate until baby understands not to take toys/items away.
2. when baby is "of age" closer to 3 or 4 give THEM toys to play with together and show dog and baby that it is ok to "take" this toy and throw it for play or tug of war whatever the game may be.
3. dogs are unpredictable just like kids/people and we must ALWAYS keep this in mind.
I think that if you turn this into a learning experience and not a guilt trip then you will be just fine... accidents happen; would you feel just as bad if it was another kid who did it or a piece of furniture?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

As is so often the case, I'm with Dawn B on this one! My uncle had a German Shepard who had been around our family for years. One night we had a huge family gathering and he brought the dog. We played with King all day long- no problems. That night, most of the company left and just a few of the family were in the house... my sister (4 at the time) pet the SAME dog she had played with all day and it pounced on her & pinned her to the floor by the neck with his teeth. No scars, but the dog was gone within the week.

You never know- talk to the vet and keep a very close eye. I "get" that this is your "first child", but really he isn't- your daughter is. Animals are instinctual and non-verbal. If he's had enough, he will do whatever to get your daughter away from him. Our pets become territorial and possessive over their homes and their owners- either in a very good way or a not so good way.

We have been fortunate that our two cats have become very protective of our son- to the point of "head butting" me to get to his room faster when he's crying, but if they EVER went after him, they'd be out of the house.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

I'm sorry but Lola is DEAD wrong. There is no guarantee that this will ever happen again. Our children have grown up around both dogs and cats and as Denise said there is a lesson to be learned here for both of you. When my son was starting to walk he decided to try to take a piece of dog food out of the bowl of a chihuahua I was dog sitting. The dog had never been around kids and reacted as most dogs would, she bit him. It broke the skin and we took him to the pediatrician just to be safe, today there isn't even a scar. I called her momma right away and she was very sorry and offered to have someone come get the dog that night. I decided instead to let her stay the week and to teach my son that taking food from a dog is not a good idea. My son is 10 now and Mitzy and he are great friends. In fact he was paid a month ago to baby sit her. She has never bitten anyone else (her momma has a human baby now 4) and my son learned a valuable lesson. I did too. As nice as it is to just assume the kid and dog will always get along your job as the mom is to watch the kid. Just as my children know not to run into the street but still need an occassional reminder when the ball goes that way. Stop beating yourself up, be glad it wasn't worse, and teach your daughter to respect the pups boundaries just as you would respect anyone else's. If the dog continues to have issues with your daughter only then should you consider something drastic like giving the dog up. To take the dog away after one mistake would really be robbing your daughter of the amazing love that only animals can provide. I hope you will forgive yourself, and pup and daughter too. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Sharon on

DO NOT BLAME DOG... My son is almost a yr old he is very active and we have a dog and our dog snips at him all u can do is tell her to not take the toy from the dog.... and if she trys to go near dog while he has toy just remove her from situation

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

We picked up a stray dog when he was about 5 months old (according to the vet). At the time, my kids were 2 and 3. It just so happens that my dog looks very much like a pit bull (though we've since learned that he is probably an american bull dog), but suffice to say, I was very nervous about this large, powerful animal that just kept on growing.

I was convinced after a few months, however, that he was the most docile, gentle dog on the planet. How did I come to this conclusion? Testing, testing and more testing. Under no circumstances was I going to be okay with this dog snapping at, biting, or even growling at my children. Not so much as curling a lip was acceptable. So (under close supervision, and after I had already tried it myself) I allowed my kids to take his bones/toys away from him, mess with his food while he was eating it, and even pull lightly on his tail and paws. All of the things that normally "trigger" aggression from dogs. I think he might have growled once, but quickly learned that wasn't acceptable when he got scolded for it. Since then (2 years later), my dog has proven time and again that he would NEVER hurt our kids. I caught my daughter pulling on his ear the other day, but all the poor animal did in response was cry. This giant 90 lb dog, crying at this tiny little girl for hurting him.

Teaching your kids to respect animals and not take things from them is important, but that's mainly for the times they encounter strange dogs. You have to expect more from your family dog, though. You have to assume that as long as you're all under the same roof, your kids WILL antagonize him in some way. You can't watch them every second of the day...it's just not realistic.

All that being said, you know your dog best. And it's possible that he sees your daughter as a "litter-mate", so to speak, and was only trying to put her in her place...not outright hurt her. But snapping at her face like that is truly concerning to me.

If you can find a good home for him, you might want to consider it. Or, you could simply observe him very closely for a while and see if he shows any signs of ever doing it again. I assume you got after him pretty well when he snapped at her, and that might have been enough. But you won't know for sure until you test his limits. So start taking toys away from him, messing with his food, pulling his tail etc. Then, while you're very close, have your daughter do the same things. And if you don't trust him enough to do this, you need to ask yourself why you own a dog that you can't trust.

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answers from Dallas on

I have not gone through this particular scenario. But I do have momma guilt. My 4 yr old burned his little back last year. I was having a back yard bbq for my daughters graduation. I left the kids jumping on the trampoline while I took the meat in. My son backed into the bbq grill and I can't forgive myself. It was just a 1 inch little square, but still, he cried and I felt terrible. So, I know how you feel. The key here is I have taken steps to insure it never happens again. I educated my son. And I removed the danger. I put the grill on the side of the house, behind a gate. He will never be in contact with it again. Dogs are unpredictable and can be dangerous. If there is a hint of danger, you have to take steps now so that it isn't much worse next time. You feel guilt now and had no idea there was a danger. Next time, you won't be able to say you had no idea. How bad will the guilt be then? I'm sorry if that sounds harsh. But choosing between a child and a dog - I choose the child everytime.


answers from Asheville on

We have a 13 yr old Rottie outside. Our two year olds want to go see him and say they want to pet him. He gets so wiggly and hyper and is so big that even the braver of the two girls steps back from him. We keep a close watch on them, not becasue we dont trust him, but because he is so big and goofy he could trample them just trying to get them to pet his hip instead of head.
We also have 4 indoor cats, two of which let the girls pet them. They have learned, the hard way, that if you corner Zeus he lashes out and Grey will just stand there.
I felt bad about the scratches and we reprimanded the cat and 'spanked' him even though he was doing what comes natural. The girls now say," Doot Doot, no no while pointing there finger at him. Cute and lesson learned.



answers from Sacramento on

We went through something similar. It was very tough. My husband was VERY concerned about the bit and I felt absolutely terrible about it because I wanted to keep the dog, but then the other part of me knew, that if it happened again, I would be SO upset with myself. I tried and tried to keep the kids separate from the dog, but in all honesty, you can't possibly watch them 24/7. What I would suggest is keeping the dog separate from the child for now. Maybe as the child gets older, you can allow them to be around each other more. But, for the safety of your son and to keep your pet, I would keep them separate for now. It will hurt your heart less to separate them vs having to deal with a bigger injury or having to get rid of the dog. Does that make sense? 1 year olds are very hands-on and it's ONLY going to get harder to control this... I would rather be safe than sorry. Don't be hard on yourself about it. Just use this as an opportunity to make some changes.


answers from Sioux City on

If the dog would have nipped your little one in a different place you probably wouldn't have the same feelings. The dog didn't deliberately go for an eye. They eye is what was nearest. Watch the dog more closely. Someday your daughter will have a cool story about her childhood. Let it rest.


answers from Kansas City on

Yes, it does mean he will do it again. It might not happen for a few weeks or even a few months. His tension will build up again and it will happen. The older the dog gets, the less patience he will have. Not only that, the snips and nips will get worse until they are bites. I ignored the warnings and eventually our beautiful dog that had grown up in a daycare, loved the kids, put up with EVERYTHING, bit someone. He groweled and nipped a few times before he finally bit someone. This is what dogs do and you are in stubborn denial about it.

I do have dogs now and we are much more careful about making sure the kids are never around the dogs when they are eating and that the dogs have plenty of their own space. We are much more observant and the 2 dogs we have are from more gentle breeds. But at the first sign of agression, they go to a family without children!



answers from Norfolk on

We had a dog that we'd had for 5yrs before our son was born. The dog started growling and eventually snipped like yours. I have to say, as soon as that started happening, I was ready for him to go! I didn't trust him. My husband thought I was being silly, but in the end, we gave the dog to someone who didn't have small kids. You just have to trust your instincts.



answers from Minneapolis on

I swear it's the eyes! My daughter ran into my Brother-In-Law's hand at an outdoor birthday party and a tiny tiny ash of his cigar burnt two TINY spots on her forehead right above between her eyes. I had a complete melt down and couldnt stop thinking about it for days. Even now I get sick when I think about what could have happened. Now I am a FREAK about people smoking anywhere near her now, at the state fair, down a busy city street, I am Hyper-Aware of everyone's nasty cigerattes and cigars. They are not allowed on our property when kids are outside. I will say right out loud, NO DO NOT GO NEAR GRANDPA WHEN HE HAS A CIGAR. or NO WE DONT WALK NEAR PEOPLE WHO ARE SMOKING IT IS TOO DANGEROUS AND DISGUSTING. and I dont care what people think, they just don't get what COULD have happened! Dont they realize their dam cigerettes are RIGHT AT EYE LEVEL???

It's the eyes.



answers from Chicago on

This is a terrible issue to deal with. I'm so sorry you are having to be in this place. The problem is, dogs are very unpredictable. For sure it sounds like he didn't intend to hurt her, but she sustained an injury anyway. It could have been worse, particularly since it was her eye. Your instincts are clearly telling you that the situation has become potentially unsafe to have the dog around her.

It sounds like getting rid of the dog might not be an option for you guys. But I'd be VERY careful not to leave them alone together. And to be sure that you don't allow her to interfere with anything that might make your dog aggressive, like his toys or food. And I would talk to his vet ASAP and get their recommendation for your situation.

Good luck.



answers from Atlanta on

Sounds like you have a great dog! I know you feel bad, but the dog only did what dogs usually do when they are mouthing something and it's snatched from them. That's the one thing I have been MOST vigilant about with my boys and our dogs -telling them and admonishing them about NEVER EVER taking anything away from the dog if it is in the dogs' mouth! This is probably an isolated incident, but do be very vigilant when the 1 year old is playing around the dog. Make sure you consistently tell her no when she's trying to do anything the dog may not like. If you can separate them when you're going to be doing something around the house, do so. Our own dogs have only snapped at us twice -and both times it was when they started fighting over a "meaty knuckle" chew bone. We don't allow those any more! If the dog has favorite chew toys and bones, maybe those should be put away when the baby is up and about.


answers from Kalamazoo on

No you don't have to condem your dog or get rid of him. But you do have to be more careful. Don't ever leave them alone - and by this I mean you can't be more than just a foot or two away. Otherwise keep them separated by a gate. Sit by the dogs head and let your daughter come up and take the toy. The dog needs to understand that your daughter is also his master and also superior to him. Unfortunately, I've seen even the nicest dogs, who I thought were/are the best most gentlest dogs alive, snap at little kids. Once kids are about 4, there is usually less of a problem and the dog sees the kid as a authority figure somewhat. Don't beat yourself up over this, but do let this be a reminder and eye opener for what could have happend. Most kids that are bit by dogs are bit by family dogs that might not have ever bit anyone before.
Just to make you feel better: My son cracked his face on our coffee table at age 3 and had to get 6 stiches above his eye. When he was 4 he cracked the back of his head on a rocking chair and still has a scar that you can see when his hair is short (probably should've got a stich in it). When he was 5 he fell off the top of the slide in our back yard and broke his arm. When my daughter was 3, and son was 5, they were playing in the toyroom together and somehow her elbow became dislocated - I got the third degree in the ER room like they thought I was abusing her by pulling on her arm. Just recently I let my daughter, now 6, use a small hammer to break open this craft type geo rock thing that we bought. First swing she brought it back and hit herself right next to her eye! And people think I"M a GOOD mother!



answers from Las Vegas on

My nephew tried to pick our Boston Terrier up and he snipped in the lid/brow area. It all happened so quick, but I did see both the nephew pick the dog up and the dog nip him. He was okay, but did have a red mark for a bit. After that, the dog never nipped anyone again. Our daughter was around him from birth to four years before we had to put him down. He never nipped her, in fact he always had a look on his face as if, "Oh it's you again".

We have a rottie too and she has never bitten. Our now 5 YO rides her dolls on her back and pets her while she eats and never a grumble or growl.

I think it is important that you tell the dog no in the child's presence and you watch for any growling, lowering of the head at the child, hair standing on back/neck. Otherwise, I am sure it is just because the child did something to the dog.



answers from New York on

I have a dog that is very aggressive to my 4 yr old since she accidentally pulled his hair when she was very young. He has snapped at her many times and bitten her once or twice. I NEVER let them play together anymore... ever! I barely let them interact. I have learned that in our house kids and dogs don't mix and she knows the rules.
Good luck.
Don't beat yourself up accidents happen.



answers from Oklahoma City on

All you can do from this point on, is watch them together very carefully. I'm sorry your daughter got hurt. Unfortunately your husband is mistaken. It is a big deal. I have not personally been affected but have read/heard that the majority of dog/animal bites to children are from their OWN pets. You really can't let your guard down. I am this way with my cats as well. I know that they are mostly friendly,but always watch my son closely around them because they are animals. Try not to beat yourself up! From this point on, just be by their side when they are playing with animals.


answers from Bakersfield on

You love your dog and you love your child. This was just sort of a wake up call, and it's awesome that it was a snip and not worse. 1 yr olds can be pretty crazy to pets so they do require being watched closely, these accidents can happen in a split second. You dog just let you know what he/she can tolerate and what he/she won't tolerate. I'd just keep them separated if you are not right there being involved with daughter petting doggie..... doggie has a track record of being really good until this incident... I'd give him/her the benefit of the doubt and just be more aware from here on out.
Don't beat yourself up, these pet/kid accidents happen often, mine would get scratched by the cat from time to time.
1 yr olds can be taught how to "play gentle" with animals, you just need to keep implementing that from here on out.

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