Is it simple proximity, kids provoke dogs; dogs are frightened of children, etc?

In my opinion lots of pet owners have limited knowledge, education or understanding of the canine communication systems. Dogs communicate their frustrations, dislikes or fears in many subtle ways, these subtle ways are missed so their communication progresses through a hierarchy of events until eventually, given no other option, the dog bites.

In most of the cases we take on where a dog has bitten a family member we are informed “the bite came from nowhere”.

We then discover during our functional assessment process that the dog had been giving of signals for months if not years in the way of appeasement signs or minor signs of aggression such as freezing, snarling or snapping. Subtle distance increasing signs that were ignored and thus failed are replaced by more overt signs.

Dog aggression can be either nonaffective dog aggression or affective aggression and they are very different.

  • Nonaffective aggression involves components of the natural modal action patterns of a dog, their predatory behavior.
  • Affective aggression is an emotional response that involves a package of operant’s and respondents.
    • In short affective aggression is motivated in the brain through emotions, (fear and/or anxiety) whereas predatory aggression is motivated by the appetite center of the brain.

In both cases the aggression, the actual behavior we see can be modified. With affective aggression if we change the underlying emotional response, take away the fear or anxiety then the actual behavior we see and consider aggressive is also changed. If a dog is no longer afraid of the child or the noises the child makes then they will not respond in a fearful manner.

If you have concerns then please reach out to an ethical, humane and competent Dog Trainer for help and guidance. In the meantime, please put in place any management strategies you need, to that ensure your dogs and family members are safe.

Common scenarios that trigger bites

Did you know dogs can and do bite under an array of circumstances. Here are a few examples:

  • Resource guarding, the dog is uncomfortable with trading or exchanging or giving up an item or location of value and a child or adult attempts to remove a dogs bone, toy or food bowl and the dog bites.
  • The family pet is fearful and is placed in a situation where it bites to escape or avoid something.
  • The dog displays predation, chases, grabs and bites small quickly moving objects such as children.
  • The dog is in pain and is approached or touched in a sensitive area.
  • The dog is mistreated, punished or threatened and bites to avoid the punishment.
  • The aggression is misdirected when the dog is prevented or stopped from some other activity.
  • The median age of dog bite patients is 15 years old and boys aged from 5 to 9 have the most incident rates.
  • It is not a surprise to learn that 77% of dog bites on children are in the facial area, whereas with adults and mail men it is the lower extremities.


Learn to Speak Dog Resources

  1. A Kids Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog
  2. Canine Communication Webinar
  3. Dog Bite Prevention Educator Certification