If A Dog Bites Another Dog, Will He Bite A Child?

If A Dog Bites Another Dog, Will He Bite A Child?

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Sam Basso
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Safety: One of my top priorities when working with any dog is taking precautions that the dog won’t harm a child. I say “precautions” instead of “prevention” because it is impossible to ever completely control or predict the behavior of another living organism, whether it is a plant, animal or person. Plants can die, or attract bugs into our homes, or grow big enough to fall over onto someone, or grow roots so large so as to plug sewer drains. Animals can run, play, jump, bite, crawl, swim, escape and a whole lot of other things that we can’t always control. And we all know that humans can’t be totally predicted or controlled, otherwise we wouldn’t need prisons. So, we take precautions, and hopefully the measures we employ include some good information and wisdom.

So, if a dog bites another dog, does that mean the dog is now going to be dangerous with children?

Types Of Dogs That Attack Other Canines

Flock Guards: There are a number of flock guarding breeds, such as the Great Pyrenees, Kuvasz, Komondor, Akbash, and Anatolian Shepherd. These mostly white coated breeds were developed to be territorial, pack oriented, and aggressive towards other canines, such as wolves, coyotes, fox and feral dogs. These dogs are used by ranchers to protect livestock. The dogs live with the livestock, starting as puppies, and then adopt them as their own, watching out for them as they graze. In Germany, flock guards are being used to keep wolves away from livestock. That is also increasingly being done in places like Montana. In Wyoming, sheepherders protect their flocks from wolves, coyotes and other predators using Great Pyrenees / Akbash mix dogs. Thus, if an intruding canine, or other predator, comes too close to the livestock, these dogs are expected to attack, and even kill, them. Yet, all of these breeds are known to be good with children.

Irish Wolfhound: The Irish Wolfhound is a wiry coated type of greyhound. They were created to chase and kill wolves. These dogs are not territorial like the Flock Guarding breeds, so you can’t leave them out in the fields with the livestock. They would run away. But, they were bred to chase and kill a wolf. Today, these dogs are not really canine killers, thus they are being cross bred with a variety of other sighthounds to do their original task in places like Texas, especially to kill coyotes. Yet, they also are known to be good with children.

Pit Bulls: There are a number of bulldog breeds that were used to fight dogs. The American Bulldog was used in Georgia by farmers to chase off, and even kill, marauding feral dogs. Packs of feral dogs are dangerous to both people and livestock. Thus, having a bulldog was useful. In many ways they performed the same role as the Flock Guards, but they weren’t placed with the livestock to bond to the livestock. They were to bond with the people, and protect the territory. Bulldogs have always been able to do this kind of job, and they are known to be good with children.

It’s Complicated… It Isn’t That A Dog Bit Another Dog

Killer Instinct: There isn’t a type of dog that was ever created to specifically attack or kill boys or girls. There is no type of dog that has an internal urge to seek out, harm or kill children. We hear about this breed or that, or we hear about dogs that have attacked and killed children, but it isn’t that a certain breed or type of dog is predisposed to harm children. Dogs also don’t have a killer instinct to seek out, harm or kill other dogs. The dogs that were created to ward off other dogs always had a predictable situation that had to occur which made the dog attack, such as a strange canine intruding into the dog’s territory, or in the case of the greyhound mixes, the other canine is attacked because it is not part of the pack. It is hard to understand this sometimes because we don’t see dogs act in ways they would have before humans put up fences and walls everywhere. Guarding breeds are territorial… they guard a fairly well defined area against intruders, especially those of their own kind. Other breeds are less territorial, but they don’t like strange dogs. You will note that the Irish Wolfhound is friendly with the family, but standoffish with strangers. That is an indication and remnant of their heritage, and the underlying motivation for why they would attack strange canines.

Breed Types: Some breeds are known to be more tolerant of children than others. That is because some dogs were never used or created to be pets. They were supposed to be irascible… easily irritated… to do their job. Or, they weren’t expected to live as a pet, so there wasn’t much effort made to ensure that they were selected to be good family dogs. If you are looking for a pet, and you anticipate that your dog will be around children, then you should avoid getting these breeds. It is YOUR fault, not the dogs fault, if you put such a dog into an impossible situation. So, do your research. If you already own such a breed, then you need to be more vigilant regarding interactions between your child and the dog.

Bad Training: Dogs that have been turned into unstable, aggressive, defensive, fearful dogs can bite children. If a dog bites another dog, that alone isn’t an indication that the dog isn’t going to be safe with children. You need more to go on. If a dog has had a rough life, then that might be a sign it isn’t going to be good with anyone, so the biting of the dog isn’t the only indication something is wrong. Dogs that have been abused by kids are going to be more likely to not like them. Dogs that have been neglected in the back yard are going to be unsociable. Dogs that have been made crazy-aggressive through abuse aren’t going to be good with kids.

Poor Breeding: I have seen many dogs that didn’t like kids or were dangerous with kids, coming from breeds that are known to be good with kids. Poor breeding can always turn a dog into something that it shouldn’t be. Yet, some of these dogs are good with other dogs, and some aren’t.

Poor Health: Whenever a dog attacks another person or animal, I always look for signs of poor health. If a dog is in poor condition… and sometimes you can’t tell that just by looking at the dog… it is going to become more protective of itself, it’s home, and so forth. That’s just the way nature programs things. So, if a dog attacks another dog, it might be an indication that something is medically wrong with the dog, and it might not be safe around kids at that point. Also, if the dog has been injured as a result of a dog fight, then the dog might bite a person. Dogs that are in pain will protect themselves.

Lifestyle: I have also seen dogs that were living in situations that were impossible for the dog. A home with 20 untrained dogs, with no outlet to play, nothing to do, not enough food, and no leadership, can become a dangerous place. The more dogs you pack into a limited space, the more likely they will fight. Put a kid in that environment, and the kid, and even the adults, can be endangered. Even if you only have 2 dogs, but they are cooped up too much, not getting regular socialization, don’t get enough family time, not getting good leadership, have no toys, don’t have a comfortable place to rest, you they are getting tense, they are living in the midst of a hectic environment, can not only attack one another, they will probably attack another dog, and can develop into dogs that are dangerous to the human adults and kids. They get frustrated, and they can also get jealous of the child with the parents or being made the center of attention. So, when I’m evaluating a dog, I always look at what the dog’s lifestyle is like. I am currently working with 3 dogs that are very jealous of one another, and it all has to do with the lifestyle of the owners. There are small fights breaking out among them as a result. Put a small kid in that environment, when they are already feeling neglected for attention, and the dogs could bite the kid, too. But, it isn’t the biting of the other dog that makes the dog dangerous to the kids, it is the impossible lifestyle that the dogs can’t cope with that could make it dangerous for a kid. A dog can also be quite upset after a dog fight, and that can last a while, and the dog can be irritable around other animals and people. Some dogs take a long time to get over a dog fight.

BOTTOM LINE: Just because a dog bites another dog doesn’t mean the dog will bite a child. But, if a dog has been in a fight with another dog, you DO need to know why. Some dog bites are justified. It is justified for a dog to bite a strange dog that enters its territory. That is not a sign of viciousness. It is normal for some dogs to not like strange dogs, and that is normal for their breed. That is also not a sign of viciousness. On the other hand, if you aren’t sure, then you need to get some professional advice so you can take wise precautions with your dog.

Sam Basso is a professional dog trainer and behaviorist, in the Phoenix/ Scottsdale metropolitan area. He’s known for being fun, kind, intelligent, and humane. Sam Basso has a unique personal touch. He has appeared on his own TV show, been a guest radio expert, gives seminars, publishes a dog related blog, does rescue volunteering, and is active in promoting animal welfare and fair dog laws.

Sam Basso is a professional dog trainer and behaviorist, in the Phoenix/ Scottsdale metropolitan area. He’s known for being fun, kind, intelligent, and humane. Sam Basso has a unique personal touch. He has appeared on his own TV show, been a guest radio expert, gives seminars, publishes a dog related blog, does rescue volunteering, and is active in promoting animal welfare and fair dog laws.

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