Everyone at Riddle and Brantley loves dogs, especially our very own Coconut. However, we know that dogs bite sometimes. We have represented many dog bite victims in the past. In our experience of handling cases involving dogs that bite people, we have noted that children appear to be bitten more frequently than adults. Aside from the fact that children are smaller than adults, children also don’t appreciate the warning signs of aggressive behavior that some dogs exhibit before the bite. In our many years of handling dog bite cases we have learned a lot about dog bites and even learned some possible ways to prevent the bites, especially in small children.
Coconut’s List of Dog Bite Factors to Consider:
1) Age of Child. The age of the child can contribute to a bite. The younger the child, the more likely the child will fail to appreciate danger and the more likely the child will want to play with the dog. Small children like to pull the tails of dogs and this can lead to a defensive bite. Coconut says if you pull his tail he might not realize that you are playing and he might just nip you. Be smart when allowing your very young children play with any dog, even Coconut. Parents or adults should always be there too.
2) Type of Dog. We all know that some dogs are just more aggressive in nature and mood than other dogs. Coconut says be aware of the type of dogs that don’t like children and find another dog like Coconut to play with.
3) Size of Dog. It is only common sense to know that the size of the dog playing with a child is important. The bigger the dog the bigger the bite. Yet size alone is not determinative. Some very large dogs are great with kids so just be smart when allowing your child to play with big dogs. Coconut says big dogs have big bites and he knows because his best friend is a big dog.
4) Age of Dog. The age of the dog can also play a factor in determining whether it is a safe playmate for a child. When dogs get older they can get cranky and sometimes mean and snippy. An older dog can be more inclined to bite for many reasons. Coconut has firsthand experience with an older dog that used to bite him. When she was young she played with Coconut but when she got older she did not want to play but she would bite.
5) Activity with the Dog. The activity you are doing with the dog can also play a role in tempting the dog to bite you. For example, if you are playing very rough with the dog the dog may play rough too and nip you while playing or just plain bite you because you made the dog mad. Picking on dogs until you irritate them is not wise. Coconut doesn’t like his tail pulled so we don’t do that with him when we play.
6) Familiarity of the Dog with the Child. This point is very important. Don’t let your child play with a dog that your child doesn’t know unless the owner is there. Most of the dog bites that we have handled over the years were caused by dogs that had no familiarity with the victim. You are less likely to be bitten by a dog that knows you. If the dog is familiar with you then you know what his normal behavior is and you can easily determine if the dog is agitated.
7) Length of time Dog has been in the family. Some dogs bond with owners or family right after birth and stay with one family for life. These dogs basically grow up with the kids. Coconut says that he is this kind of dog and these dogs are the best for children. There is truth to this statement as a lot of these dogs protect the children and would never harm them. However, there is no blanket protection. Dogs have teeth and when the bite it can cause injury.
Coconut’s Tips for Dog Bite Prevention:
1) Know the dog before you allow your small child to play with it. If you aren’t familiar with the dog then find someone that is familiar with it before you allow your child to play.
2) Be wary of very large dogs because these animals can hurt children even when they are just playing. Big Dogs have big bites and they can really cause a lot of injury to a child.
3) Never ever allow your child to play with a dog when the dog is eating. Dogs naturally use their teeth when they eat and they can be provoked easily if they think you are trying to take their food.
4) Don’t ever let your child put his face next to the dog’s face or mouth unless you are certain the dog won’t misinterpret the gestures. Coconut likes to give kisses in the face but you need to be careful in allowing small kids to try to kiss dogs in the face. Not all dogs are as loving as Coconut.
5) If the dog is on a chain, then leave it alone. The owner put the dog on the chain for a reason. Don’t test your luck.
6) Don’t pet a dog that you don’t know. Coconut understands how difficult this is because dogs are so cute. However, most of the dog bites we have handled were caused by dogs that the victim did not know.
7) Don’t pull the tail of a dog. This gesture can elicit a defensive bite or an angry bite. It can hurt the dog too and cause the dog not to like you. Also, don’t play too rough with your dog because the rough play can trigger a bite or the dog may learn to play rough all the time and this can be dangerous to little kids that try to play with it.
8) If a dog appears injured or sick then leave it alone unless you know the dog and then try to get the dog to a vet.
9) Don’t ever try to provoke a dog to bite you. Doing so will eventually lead to a bite and will teach the dog behavior that is bad for the dog and people.
Bad things happen when you don’t use common sense around animals, even family pets. One of the worst dog bites that we have handled occurred several years ago in the home of a grandparent. The family was outside having a picnic and the kids were feeding some chicken to the pet dog. The little 4 old child wanted to feed the dog too so she held out a piece of chicken to the dog. The dog got excited and snapped at the chicken in her hand but missed and slashed her face instead. She suffered a severe laceration to the face which required some plastic surgery. We were successful in resolving this case for the child and her parents but this incident should have never happened. The dog isn’t to blame.
Coconut wants everyone to love their dogs and pet them daily but he also encourages all of us to be smart and safe. If a dog has multiple bites or becomes too aggressive that dog may be euthanized which is terrible for the owners and the dog. More importantly, that dog can inflict serious injury to children.
If you or a loved one has suffered a dog bite Riddle and Brantley may be able to help. We welcome the opportunity to talk to you about the incident and see if we can help. We have handled many dog bites over the past thirty years. You can talk to an experienced attorney about the mounting medical bills and what you should do to document your child’s injury and scarring. You can discuss whether and how to get a medical opinion from a plastic surgeon if needed. We can help you recover expenses for medical care and compensation for the injury to your child including pain and suffering and permanent injury or scarring.