Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Study Shows that Children Do Not Know How to Read Dog Body Language

Thanks to our good friend Dr. Stanley Coren for bringing this important study to our attention

Chlopčíková, M and Mojžíšová,A. 2010. Risk Factors in the relationship between children and dogs. Journal of Nursing, Social Studies and Public Health. 1(102–109).


In 2008, a pilot study trying to find the potential causes of conflicts in the children × dog relationship was realized. This pilot study was triggered by the increasing amount of cases of dog attacks in society, especially
dog attacks on the youngest generation (children). The collection of data which monitored awareness about a responsible approach and safe contact with dogs among primary school children (aged 8–12) was conducted from November 2007 to March 2008. The main aim of the research was to map children’s knowledge of dog’s communication signals, the perception of a child’s own authority in the relationship with a dog and the frequency of individual risk activities in their mutual contact. The research study has revealed alarming deficiencies, especially in the knowledge of communication signals and canine body language. The awareness of signs of the two most hazardous communication signals (threat and attack) was very poor.

Some Key Risk Factors Identified in this Study

  • Children considering themselves to be the highest authority over the dog
  • Children walking the dog without adult supervision
  • Ignorance of dog body language signals - considered by the authors to be the main bite risk factor
The overall bite incidence in this study was 51% (of 200 children age 8-12). This is consistent with finding from our own survey of children in Be a Tree sessions that 54% (of 869 children age 5-9) has been bitten.

The results of this study provide strong support for the Doggone Safe approach of teaching children to read dog body language to help reduce the dog bite risk.

Read the full article

Posted with permission from the publisher


  1. QUOTE,
    "Some Key Risk Factors...
    * Children considering themselves to be the highest authority over the dog"

    that is among the reasons i think Cesar Millan AKA the Dawg-Wrassler is a genuine risk to the average pet-owning viewer: he frequently encourages parents to "Make your child the Alpha over the dog...", which makes me crazy.

    no child under their teens is capable of using the same skill-sets and brute-force of lifting dogs by the leash to check or correct or control them, timing to correct AKA punish the dog, etc, as shown by the host on the TV-program. It's terrifying to suggest they might emulate him.
    - terry

    terry pride, APDT-Aus, apdt#1827, CVA, TDF

  2. Cesar teaches children to read signs given by Dogs and to respect them. By "Alpha" status he is teaching the child to present themselves as calm and assertive to the Dog. Do you think the Dog should think of itself as higher rank than the child then? That's crazy. I think you just misunderstood Cesar.

    1. Milan most certainly does not teach kids to read signs that dogs give. Have you ever seen the episode where actress Virginia Madsen and her son were seeking a new dog? Or what he did to the Golden Retreiver in the women's prision during a nail clipping? Or hanging the Husky? Cringe! That is not training, it's abuse. He's also used his own kids in tenuous at best situations with very stressed out dogs teaching the dogs to only be more fearful. Contrary to this incompetent man's homemade theories (nothing science-based that I have ever seen), these dogs are NOT "calm/submissive". They are scared out of the wits, pushed to the brink of sheer exhaustion and too afraid to make a move. That is abuse, not teaching. Read up on the science-based dog training theories and how dogs and animals actually learn. That is what proper and humane dog training/animal training should consist of. Check out Dr. Sophia Yin, Trish McConnell, Ian Dunbar, Jean Donaldson, Victoria Stilwell, Andrea Arden and a host of other reputable, safe, humane trainers.

  3. No, Terry understood Cesar quite well. Any trainer knows that would put a child in danger and it's sad that Cesar chooses to teach that way. Cesar's way does not solve the underlying issue to problems and just suppresses the bad behaviors. Later that suppressed behavior comes out and usually much more violent. A true positive trainer helps the underlying problem which stops or redirects the bad behavior so it won't return because it was the dog's choice and not something that was forced on the dog.

    Expecting an 8-10 year old child to be in charge of anything, including a problem dog is nothing short of insane.

    Karin Stevenson
    APDT# 78279, IAABC

  4. There's no evidence that dogs live in a rigid hierarchy. Don't worry - they never think they outrank children - or any other human.

  5. A little out of context. Cesar friend. Friend of friend from L.A. Important to teach children and canines respect and cues. Children can articulate understanding. Children can be taught to interpret cues (look at how successful signing is with preverbal infants/toddlers). All in perspective. Goal is mutual respect with humans being the lead alpha. :o)