Can You Keep a Dog After It Bites Your Child?

When you’re a dog owner if your dog bites it can be scary and devastating for you. If you’ve ever been the victim of a dog bite, you also know how traumatizing that can be, but these situations do happen. 

So what if you have a child or children and your dog bites them? What should you do, and does that mean you have to automatically get rid of the dog?

Not necessarily, but there are some things to know.

What to Do Initially

There are some things you should do right away if your dog bites your child, and then some things you’ll have to think about more over the longterm.

In the short term, the first thing you should do is assess your child’s wound and make sure you fully separate the dog and your child. 

Do you need to get emergency care for your child’s wound? Is your dog up-to-date on vaccinations?

Is there any immediate danger for your child?

These are all things you have to go over first and foremost. 

Once you get out of this initial danger zone, you’ll start giving some other things consideration. 

Why Do Dogs Bite?

Your first inclination might be to rehome your dog, and that’s ultimately your choice, but if the thought of doing that is heartbreaking to you, there are other options. 

First, you need to try and determine if the dog’s actions were provoked or unprovoked. 

If your dog bit your child without being provoked, there could be a reason. For example, your dog may have an illness, and you should see your vet. 

If your dog was provoked unintentionally by your child, that’s a different situation. 

Dogs often perceive children as more of a threat than we as human adults can really grasp. Younger children really don’t have any concept of how to be gentle, and you’ve probably seen that yourself. For example, your toddler may hit you or poke you in the eye with no comprehension that this will hurt you. 

If it’s possible that your child provoked your dog, one of your first goals should be ensuring that you’re always carefully supervising all of their interactions.

A big mistake you might make when your kids are younger is assuming that if your dog has been well-behaved and non-aggressive to this point, it will continue to behave the same way around a young child. Then you might let your guard down as far as supervision.

The Severity of the Bite

When you’re deciding what to do next with your dog after a bite, along with figuring out whether or not there was a provocation, you should think about how severe the bite is. 

If it’s a nip, you may not have to give away your dog, but you will need to come up with a plan for dealing with your dog’s behavior and keeping your child safe. 

Your plan might include more supervision and management of the situation. You can work to train your dog in key areas and also to avoid the triggers that led to the aggressive behavior. An animal behaviorist can help you learn what your dog’s triggers are and come up with a plan.

Many dogs can be re-trained, but it’s expensive and time-consuming. 

If you’re going to keep your dog, you also need to work with your child on how to behave toward the dog. 

Children have to learn these skills just like they learn how to behave in other situations in their lives. You shouldn’t let your child climb on a dog, tug on them, try to ride them, or put their face right in the face of the dog. 

Your child needs to be taught to recognize warning behaviors from a dog too. Snapping, growling, and barking are some of the more obvious ones, but a dog putting their ears flat against their head or licking their lips are also signs of discomfort from a dog. 

If you ultimately decide that re-homing your dog is best for your family, you have to disclose the biting incident to the new family. That’s so important so they can make the right choice for their family. 

Before you immediately decide that’s what you’re going to do, you should take some time and assess your specific situation. You should also talk to your veterinarian about what happened because they may have valuable insight.

If in your gut you don’t feel comfortable having the dog in your home anymore after a bite, you also ultimately have your answer about re-homing. 

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