Help! My dog is biting children!

Help! My dog is biting children!

A reader whose Miniature Schnauzer has bitten two children in the space of a week asks Dr Platzhund for advice on what to do next.


Q: I have a three-year-old sterilised male miniature schnauzer. He is hyperactive and has been treated by an animal behaviourist for excessive barking and reactivity. The measures I’ve applied were successful, but suddenly, in a period of a week, he has bitten two of my children’s friends on their legs. The bites punctured the skin. What lies ahead with this scenario? I’m very worried. He is so good with my own children and very good with our old dachshund male.

A: Once a dog bites a person and punctures the skin the prognosis in behaviour circles is regarded as very poor. One has to take into account the behaviour of the children to have incited the bite. When children run around screaming they pose as ideal ‘prey’ for any potential ‘predator’ that does not recognise the behaviour as safe or non-threatening. Sometimes the bite is a reprimand: the child screams, which can incite biting. Unfortunately the dog cannot be trusted again under similar circumstances. The dog can never run free with children again. Without supervision this attitude becomes life-threatening to the dog, which usually requires relocation to a home without kids, or euthanasia. The only remedial application in this situation involves keeping the dog under restraint when children are present. The dog must be on a secure collar and lead, and placed in a down position alongside your feet or tied to a firm post so that the dog can visualise activity but cannot take the law into its own teeth. Some children antagonise dogs, so they and the parents need to be spoken to. The dog can be fed by the strange kids to try and associate a positive consideration with their presence. If the dog has food withdrawn a day or two before their intended visit then the kids can be placed on the floor with the dog’s food bowl between their legs so that, under leash control, with children calm and quiet, the dog can approach its food and associate the youngsters with this reward. Another effective method is to let the dog run on an extended ski-rope line with someone strong and knowledgeable at the other end. As soon as the dog runs, gains speed and tries to go in for the attack, it is whiplashed backwards with sufficient force to create timeous aversive therapy. Sometimes this deed needs to be re-enacted once or twice more to ‘cure’ the dog of its ‘desire’ to chase. People might complain when witnessing this form of effective indirect reprimand, not realising that it’s a means to saving the dog’s life as well as a child’s! Ensure that you have domestic public liability insurance. The dog-human aggression is irrelevant when it comes to your dachshund as one has nothing to do with the other.

Joni van der Merwe

About Joni van der Merwe

Your Family’s Digital editor. Avid retweeter. When I’m not scrolling Instagram you’ll find me in my garden. Keen on DIY and I don’t believe there’s anything that can’t be fixed with some chalk paint.


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