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Vet reveals the tell-tale signs a dog is about to bite and how to keep kids safe around animals

Don’t stick your hand out and never punish growling: Vet reveals how to keep your children safe around dogs and the tell-tale signs they’re about to bite

  • An Australian vet has revealed the best way to approach a dog to avoid bites
  • Dr Tim Montgomery said to approach dogs side on and not stick your hand out
  • The Sydney vet said he has seen kids who have facial scars due to dog bites
  • He recommended parents teach children about dog behavior to keep them safe
  • Dr Tim said give dogs space if they seem anxious and to never punish growling

An Australian veterinarian has revealed what not to do to keep you and your child safe from getting bitten by dogs – and said not to stick your hand out to let them sniff.

Dr Tim Montgomery, Regional Clinical Director of Sydney Animal Hospitals, said it’s important to know how to best approach a dog to avoid them biting out of fear or stress.

The animal doctor, who specializes in pet behaviour, reported seeing many children with awful injuries from dog bites that all could have been avoided with some basic education about our furry friends’ behavior and body language.

Dr Tim Montgomery, Regional Director of Sydney Animal Hospitals, said it’s important to know how to best approach a dog to avoid them biting out of fear or stress

The 32-year-old vet, who has been practicing for eight years, said while everyone – including him – were always taught to let a dog sniff your hand before patting them, this can be one of the most likely times for someone to get bitten.

‘The reality is that a dog will often want to sniff you before you touch them, but some dogs don’t even want to sniff you,’ he told FEMAIL.

‘By pushing your hand into their face you’re getting into their space and if they’re already feeling nervous or anxious, that may be the most likely time for you to get bitten.’

Dr Tim said when approaching a dog it's best to avoid coming to them front on, bending over the top of them, making too much eye contact and putting your hand on their head

Dr Tim said when approaching a dog it’s best to avoid coming to them front on, bending over the top of them, making too much eye contact and putting your hand on their head

How to tell a dog may be about to bite

1. Growling and snapping

2. Lip licking, yawning and an avoiding gaze

3. Sclera sighting – when the white of the eye becomes noticeable when a dog moves its head in one direction and stars at something in the other.

4. Rigid stance – stiffened body, tail raised above their head and perked up ears

5. Raised hackles – when the hair down their neck, back, and/or tail is raised.

6. Wagging tail – an ‘aggressive’ wag is a quick, rigid, back and forth motion

7. Tucked away tail and cowering

Source: PetFinn.com

Instead, Dr Tim said when approaching a pooch, whether they’re familiar or strange, it’s best to avoid coming to them front on, bending over the top of them, making too much eye contact and putting your hand on their head as this is a common time to get bitten.

‘Go side on, squat down and allow the dog to come towards you. If they do, allow them to sniff you but don’t reach out yet – let them get to know you at their own pace,’ the Sydney vet suggested.

‘If the dog then pushes into you, rubs against you and seems to be wanting a pat, go for a gentle stroke – the best places initially would be over the base of the tail, back, chest or under the chin.’

Dr Tim said it’s vital parents educate their children about how to interact with dogs and take measures themselves to avoid a trip to the emergency room.

‘Both dogs and children are very impulsive, they’re reactive, they’re excitable and they’re unpredictable – as a result a dog and a child can sometimes be a perfect storm,’ he said.

‘I’ve personally seen children in the vet hospital who have lost eyes or had their faces disfigured from accidental bites from pets that had shown no previous indication of that sort of behaviour.’

While most of the time dogs and their young owners will get along just fine, Dr Tim said it’s important for parents to supervise their interactions and know the signs a bite may be impending.

Dr Tim advises against punishing your dog for growling as it is one of the few ways they are able to communicate discomfort with us

Dr Tim advises against punishing your dog for growling as it is one of the few ways they are able to communicate discomfort with us

‘A dog has only a few limited ways of telling a person that they feel uncomfortable or want to be left alone. They can show some quite subtle signs of fear or discomfort such as lip licking, panting, yawning, cowering or hiding.’

‘If these don’t work for the dog, the next step is to growl and if the growl doesn’t work or if the dog is very afraid then the only other option available is to bite.’

Dr Tim advises against punishing your dog for growing as it is one of the few ways they are able to communicate discomfort with us.

‘My advice to owners is to always respect a growl by giving the dog who is growling the space that they are looking for – move away, leave them be,’ he said.

‘If they’re comfy in their bed and they growl, just walk away and leave them be – let’s remember that dogs are all individuals and they’re allowed to feel and behave in varied ways.’

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