Skip to content

On When Dogs Bite Infants

A friend (age 50-loves dogs, has had them forever, only rescues) recently married a woman (much younger, not that interested in dogs) and they had a baby (now about 8-months old). The friend has two dogs, one of whom is 13-years old and is apparently experiencing a bit of mental deterioration.

Without provocation, said dog bit infant in such a way that required stitches on her face and back. Just a handful, but still.

New wife is apoplectic and won't let the dog back in the house (the dog is at a friend's house). There is a good chance that the dog will never, ever be permitted back in the house (lucky they also have a guest house! But actually that's not a viable long-term solution).

I'm just telling the story, here. We cannot change what has occurred and the friend, at least, has learned the lesson that no matter how well you think you know your dog, you always have a grown-up person between the dog and the infant and you also never let your guard down.

This is the only time in the dog's 13 years that anything like this has happened. It's also the only child that has ever been in the dog's home for more than a weekend.

Any advice? My friend isn't one of those "I'm-putting-the-dog-down" people. Oddly, when I called a trainer friend, that was the first thing she suggested, as whatever happens it's not going to be as fantastic as the life the dog used to have, alone with his canine sister and his daddy for nearly 13 years. Interesting point, but death or else a less-fantastic life? I think there might be another option.

Anyone . . . anyone . . .

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. John #

    Within a couple of years I'll be faced with a similar situation..having a new infant in the house as my wife and I will be adopting a child (9-11 months old).
    Two weeks ago I brought another greyhound into my life, a 4 yr. old male named Giro. Playful and very inquisitive. Of course he's still adjusting and getting acclimated with his new surroundings. He had only been at the rescue facility for 3 weeks before I got him…prior to that he was at the Tuscon track in Arizona(was not racing there so not sure how he was being "used")
    He loves is squeaky stuffed toys. So the other day I came across my neighbor who has a 13 month old. While in the stroller her baby saw my dog and smiled and responded like she wanted to touch him in a curious manner. I had a strong hold of the leash as my GH leaned over and just sniffed her. When his nose touched her skin the baby got a little scared and started to cry so my neighbor picked her up out of the stroller and held her trying to comfort her. Giro, ears perked up from hearing the high pitched cry, kind of pulled on the leash towards my neighbor. Her baby's foot was kind of hanging down and Giro attempted to..well not really bite in an aggressive away but wanted to grab the foot…as if it was part of a squeaky toy! He started to open his mouth and I pulled him back. Throughout the whole episode he never showed aggression but at the same time he couldn't distinguish that that was a human being and not some toy. That episode actually occurred within the first week I had him. Needless to say I never told my wife about that encounter! (For fear she'd freak out) I'm sure in time he will mellow out before the arrival of our baby. Of course I will take the standard precautions of never leaving him alone with our child until he or she is much older.

    September 15, 2009
  2. ethix view #

    Without more information, it is impossible to make an assessment as to what would be a good solution. It is crucial to know what happened just before the incident. Was the baby squealing or touching/patting/grabbing the dog in the uncoordinated way that babies do and the dog got startled? If no one was present to answer this definitively, there is a problem. Why was an 8-month-old baby left unprotected and/or allowed so close to a dog? The trainer's advice is absurd, unless she has a lot more information than we have been given. The future life for this dog in this household will most probably not be "fantastic" anyway given the wife's reaction and her disinterest in dogs. The baby should never be left unsupervised or in the same room with the dog. If this is too "inconvenient" in this household, rehoming the dog with a compassionate adult/s is a far better outcome than killing an animal who may have been startled, felt threatened, and reacted. But we just do not know enough.

    September 15, 2009
  3. Eileen #

    Mary, I think you put it very well: "no matter how well you think you know your dog, you always have a grown-up person between the dog and the infant and you also never let your guard down." The new wife is heartless to deprive a 13-year-old dog of the family he's known for years, and the trainer is heartless to suggest killing him. Of course the only acceptable solution is to bring the dog home and be more careful in the future.

    September 15, 2009
  4. Mary #

    ethix view,
    They don't know what happened because they weren't paying attention. There was no squealing or incitement or startling that they knew of. The two were 6 feet apart one second, then the dog bit her the next. The humans know it was their fault ultimately, and perhaps when the dust settles Wife will be receptive to a discussion about HER part in what happened.

    September 15, 2009
  5. I totally agree about not putting the dog down, but a dog bite and stitches are nothing to mess about with when it's an infant. I completely see why the wife won't let the dog back home. It could have been so much worse for the baby. And it's so easy as a mother to get into the 'what-if' scenarios — especially right after it's happened and it's a new baby and your hormones are so high.

    That said, it's also really hard on the dog not to come home again. Rehoming it (perhaps where it's staying now?) might be the best option. I can see bringing it home again, but I think that would mean that the dog could not be in the same room as the baby at all until baby is past the stage of randomly waving about and squealing and has at least some self-control (at least 12 months, maybe more like 18-24 months, depends on the baby). And that would mean the dog would spend a lot less time with his people. He would need lots of love from the husband away from baby. Is that possible?

    And, I just want to say, I think it's really important that a child not have bad experiences with dogs when small. I think early bad experiences can lead to nervousness around dogs, which makes the dogs nervous, which can lead to further bad experiences. It can be a vicious cycle (not always if parents can be calm & reassuring about dogs, but that doesn't always happen).

    September 16, 2009
  6. mary martin #

    They are indeed now thinking about the dog in a separate part of the house but with lots of love from Daddy. Daddy is also thinking about what you say about his daughter not having bad experiences with dogs. And about not punishing the dog for being a dog (plus we don't know what really happened). He's being fair and rational now, and working on Wife and has already made progress. One lesson learned here (other than the obvious of adult between infant and dog) is to not react and do anything rash immediately. The aftermath could have been so much worse (beating of dog, killing of dog) and I actually think it's going pretty well considering.

    September 16, 2009
  7. Well, it sounds like it is going pretty well. I wish them luck.

    September 16, 2009
  8. Bea #

    I definitely think the dog is not to blame! He is old, so maybe a bit grumpy and touchy. His life has changed dramatically with the new wife and baby. His life has been turned upside down. He is old with 13, maybe he has dementia? But one thing I know for sure, is that this dog just wants to live out his life in peace, in the home he has been in for 13 years. Is that too much to ask? I don't think so. How many changes have been made to his life, since the new wife has appeared? Pushed away, because of the baby? Instead of being incorporated into the family. Dogs have feelings and they know very well, that because of this baby, their life style has been compromised and nobody likes that. I think the wife and the baby should try to be a bit more sensitive, fit in, after all, the dog has been there first. After all the dog is only going to live a few more years, let him live out his life in the same life style he was used to, before the new wife arrived!!! Make friends with the dog, instead of treating him like a criminal that is not allowed home~ HIS HOME FOR GOD'S SAKE!
    And that trainer,is just the usual human being, that believes everything is solved with killing! Shame on you, and you want to be a trainer? Go back into your hole!
    Don't punish the dog, he did only react to what? You adults not having watched that baby!! It is your fault mother!!! Not the dogs!!!

    October 2, 2009
  9. Dudley Land #

    I read with discust most of these posts. I do not care if the dog is at fault! Any dog that bites a child should be destroyed! No animal other than human fits into my ranking system. I believe that dogs are indeed great companions for man however they are not elevated to human status EVER!

    October 9, 2009

Leave a Reply

You may use basic HTML in your comments. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS