Can dogs actually hurt children intentionally?

By Kodichukwu Okonkwo, DVM | May 22nd, 2018

Jack was my aunt’s dog, a local breed of dog with nice hairs pattern, he was brought for holidays at my grandmother’s home. He has been an indoor dog from puppy and was considered okay to be kept in the house with all of us. I was between 6 – 7 years of age at that time and was on holiday in my grandmother’s home in Abakaliki – the current capital of Ebonyi State of Nigeria. She –My grandma - always loved to be with us anytime we were on holidays from school. Christmas was very close at that.

Jack played with all of us including my cousin who was 6 months old. I started to be worried about Jack when he would growl when you come close to his food. He was usually fed at a small part of the back veranda. His food has always included meat and bones which my grandma would readily give him anytime.

One evening, Jack was just fed with a lot of meat and one big soft bone. He ate part of his main food and brought the bone into the sitting room. I avoided Jack because I know how he acts when you get close to his food. My little cousin, as innocent as she was playing with her toys sitting on the floor in the middle of the sitting room.

Jack chewed the bone to an extent and left it. I was actually supposed to watch after my cousin that day while my grandma was at the shop where she sells beers and fried meat but I was not concentrating on the baby until I heard Jack growling like he was attacking something and I heard a BIG cry from my cousin and my mind flew! I rushed to the scene and caught Jack still throwing the baby around the sitting room biting her hand with a piece of the bone still in her hand.

I started to shout JACK! JACK!! JACK!!! The bone fell off my cousin’s hand and Jack went for it and left her. I was seriously terrified and very afraid of Jack this time. Jack was a big dog, two years old at that time. My cousin was bleeding profusely from that her hand. I quickly grabbed her and ran downstairs to my grandma’s shop. My grandma was confused as I was trying to explain the incident, she didn’t just know what to do and couldn’t allow me to complete my explanation she just grabbed the baby from me and started pacing towards the medical center down the road.

Of course Jack was sent out of the house for that singular act. We missed him but was happy he was gone.

Did Jack bite the little girl intentionally?

Yes. Jack has been brought up to believe he should protect his meal from any interference and would do anything to defend it. Many dogs manifest this “food protection” behavior early in life and if not controlled at that age will grow with it and will pose a threat to people living with the dog – as in this case.

Assuming the girl did not pick up the dogs piece of bone, I don’t think the attack would have taken place. My cousin was a toddler who knows nothing about dogs or life in general and was able to put herself in that kind of danger due to her ignorance –which is expected.

I chose this story which happened in my experience because I have received a lot of complains from clients that had similar experience at home with their own dogs. To control this tendency, we try to help them train the dogs to tolerate people that might take their food even while they are eating. We were successful with some and failed with some. It is important that people train their dogs from puppies to tolerate his owners, family members or handler especially when meddling with their food.

Before that incident, we have been playing with Jack without any problems inside the house and being aware of his tendency to bite when his food is tampered with, my grandma always feeds him outside the house. Being an animal, he tried to bring part of his food inside the house which led to that incident.

Will all dogs intentionally bite children?

No. Dogs will understand children when they have been appropriately socialized with them and will not attack children especially when they are accommodated indoors. Some dogs are actually pets that don’t bite usually and would bark just to get attention when hungry or willing to play with the children. It’s important to keep dogs that don’t bite usually indoors to avoid bite incidences involving children against some dogs that are there for security reasons.

In conclusion

Keeping dogs indoors is encouraged but when a toddler is involved, extra precautions should be taken to monitor the child from getting hurt either by a family pet dog or any other material that can be a danger to the child. Thank you.



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    Kodichukwu Okonkwo, DVM

    Founder of Fairvet Animal Clinic Ltd since 2011, studied at the University of Nigeria Nsukka. He is well experienced in small animal, large animal & poultry medicine, and also skilled at zoo medicine. He loves animals and builds both professional and personal relationship with pet owners in order to sustain a good interaction with pet and animal owners, coupled with His great skills in programming; he brought about which he personally built from scratch.

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