Dog accused of biting a child


Full Member
Hi everyone,

My husband and I adopted a dog from a rescue home in December 2014. They said he was a Cockapoo but looks nothing like one! We think he is more of a collie spaniel cross. He is now 10 months old and absolutely gorgeous as well as totally giddy!

I was walking him in my local park yesterday and I was a bit cautious in taking him off the lead with so many people around as his recall isn't great when there are distractions, so I took him off in a quiet area of the park (like a trail area) and let him run around for a bit. Then he decided to go a bit further away to find a spot to go to the toilet. Looking back on it, I should have called him back and put him on the lead there and then and then cleaned up his mess.
What I did was go over to the spot he had gone to the toilet to look for the poop, in this space of time he had got distracted by a football that was being kicked about between a father and a son but both times he went over to the ball I called him back and he came. He was sat down ready for a treat when out of nowhere this tiny little dog came bounding over and then everything went mad. My dog has the body of a large adult dog even though he is a puppy and he forgets his size, he went after the little dog and I had no control in getting him back. These kids started chasing my dog waving sticks and when he stopped with the other dog he started jumping at one of the little boys in a playful mode. The little boy understandably got very scared because of his size and went to the ground. Puppy again went into playful puppy little mode and was all over him on the ground - I shouted him off and he ran off after the other dog and I asked the child if he was ok (mistake no.2: I should have caught him, put him on lead and then asked if he was ok), and he just started crying. His mum ran over shouting and saying that my dog should have been on the lead. I tried to explain that I walk him every day and that he has not ever gone after a child before and that her children were waving sticks. The man who was playing football with his son also came over to give me a piece of his mind (even though my dog had only so much as gone near there ball) and then my dog went to jump around the woman's other son and exactly the same thing happened as the first boy - only this time the son accused him on biting. I managed to call my dog off but he ran off again - he was eventually caught by the football father who grabbed his head in between his legs. At the time I was grateful that he was finally caught when I clearly had lost control over him but looking back on it it was a very aggressive thing for the man to have done.
The woman then shouted that my dog had bitten her son and I tried to explain that he was only a puppy and not aggressive (this is the point I should have just said sorry, checked her kids were ok and left the scene) and that this was a puppy way to react to being chased with sticks. When she said to me that he was out of control, I made the grave and stupid error of telling her that she should have more control over her brats. I am disgusted that I made such a comment, especially after I had explained myself so poorly.
She threatened to call the police if it happened again and the football father said very emphatically that he would be her witness.
She informed me that I had not even apologised (which is usually the first thing I instinctively do if he goes to so much as play with another dog!) so I said I was genuinely sorry and that I should have controlled the situation. She said that was what she needed to hear and walked off.

I was in tears by this point out of shock and my own, out of character reaction. As I was leaving the park I looked at the sign to see if it said that dogs should always be on the lead (which is what both parents had pointed out to me). As I was looking for this another woman who was hanging around recognised me from the altercation (I had no idea who she was) and said that it did say that dogs should be on the lead and that I should be lucky that it didn't happen to a child of hers or a 'family that she worked with' as they'd have gone for me, which shook me up even more. She said that children are not brats and that they are just playful and I said to her that I regretted saying that and was genuinely sorry. She knew the woman as their children go to the same school so I asked her if she would tell the other woman how sorry I was which she said she would, I then broke down in tears again due to the shock of it all. The woman said that she had had dogs and saw aggressive tendencies in mine which shocked me even more as my husband and I always commended him on his lack of aggression. He rarely barks and is way too trusting of all dogs!

I spoke to my neighbours afterwards as they are experienced dog owners and they were shocked to even think that I had started doubting his gentleness and innocence. They confirmed that it sounded like he thought he was in puppy play mode as he made no growling sound and his huckles weren't up. This is all well and good but I don't think the parents I encountered today would understand that as because at the end of the day, the encounter left their children very scared.

We are going to sign up to dog training classes to get his recall spot on amongst other things and are going to keep him on the lead at all times until we get his recall right. Even then I will not take him to this park during the school holidays as it clearly is a very distracting environment.

It's such a shame as the day before, I took him to the same park at the same time. There were so many children around and he had lots of off the lead time, played with another dog and socialised with other dogs and had a great time. Yesterday couldn't have been more opposite!

I just wanted to know if any owners had had similar experiences and if there are any tips that you could recommend x
This sounds like an awful situation for all, and I do understand your reaction, but I also understand theirs. To me (I don't have children) my dogs are my babies, and I'd be so shaken if this had happened, but the parents must have been terrified for their children. Especially with all the news stories of dog attacks (which for the record I do not think are nearly as prevalent as they are made out to be) you may know your dog was playing but they didn't.

I do not let my dogs off the lead in public areas for this reason, firstly for the safety of my dogs, if someone were to accuse my dog of something I would have no control as to whether they called the police and my first priority is keeping them safe, secondly because even as a dog owner I think it's unfair that people who may not like dogs are at risk of being jumped upon even in a playful manner - imagine being terrified of dogs and one jumps on you and all you can hear is an owner yelling "It's alright, he's friendly, he's just playing!", I wouldn't expect someone's child to jump all over me, so I control my animals by using a lead.

My dogs have near perfect recall, have never bitten or attacked (though I will be the first to admit one of them is tetchy around strangers) and I trust them with my all my heart, but I'd still not let them off because whilst I trust them, there is always a 0.1% chance of them doing something, they are animals as much as we like to treat them like babies, especially if antagonised etc.

I think you've done the right thing, you've realised it might be an issue and are seeking help to work on recall and possible aggression, though I seriously doubt he has aggressive tendencies if it's as you described. Good luck, keep us updated

NOTE: I'm not sure if you're aware but legally now a dog jumping up, even in greeting, can be classed as an attack and a crime. I think it's ridiculous but it is there.
Thanks so much for replying :)

Letting my dog off the lead has always been something I have concerns over due to his size and recall but in an empty or near empty dog park his behaviour has been exemplary. His distractions are birds, dogs and squirrels in the particular park we were in and I had built a pattern of where was and wasn't safe to take him off which seemed to be working well until yesterday and that was purely my fault for not putting him back on before I went to clean his poop.

I spoke to my husband about keeping him on the lead which we initially agreed to do after the incident but today my husband quite rightly said he was concerned that our dog wouldn't be getting as much exercise on the lead and because of his age and we suspect the potential collie in him, he could quite easily have 4 hourly walks a day and not get tired! We agreed that we'd get him a long line so that he could have the freedom he had been used to but that we could control how far he goes when there are other people are around. We took him to the park tonight which was completely empty with the exception of another dog and it's owner, and let him off. My husband would then play with him and run around to distract him so that I could practice recall - not something that went particularly well but we made sure he went straight back on his lead without a treat if he did not come back first time. Hopefully when we begin dog training we will be able to learn the correct technique in which to train his recall as everything at the moment is by the advice of others and trial and error.

What I definitely won't be doing though is taking him off when there are other non dog-walkers around and I will avoid that park completely during school holidays. I tend not to let him off if there is a small dog off lead or any dog on lead as well as I know he will want to play with them, and will carry on doing this.

As you said, your dogs are like your babies and we don't yet have any children although our dog has met our toddler niece and nephew and a friend's child and lived with a 5 and 13 year old when he was with his previous owners. Amazingly, on Tuesday, a little girl (can't have been older than 2/3) asked her mum if she could stroke him. I sat him down and gave him a treat and they stroked him and loved it. I'm so frustrated that I can't explain why he went up to those boys (other than they had been chasing him waving sticks) and that me not being smart enough to prevent or control this has resulted in him getting an unfairly bad reputation. I said to my husband that I had (badly) tried to explain to the mother that her children had also antagonised him into that playful mode and he said even if I had explained it well, it wouldn't have made a difference. What parent would care to want to see the bigger picture and events leading up to it when their child has been jumped at by a big dog and is in tears? I think if I had never owned a dog and that had happened to my child I would also have reacted like that but now that this has happened, I would teach my children the dangers of antagonising dogs as I wouldn't want them to fear them unnecessarily.

What scares me is the threat that the other woman made about going straight for me if it had been her child and I am so grateful that the mother wasn't violent as my dog definitely would have gone into protective mode if he saw I was in danger and I can't bear to think of the consequences of that. So far we have been so lucky to have met really nice and accepting dog owners on our walks and I know now that when it comes to non dog owners we just have to be extra careful and not let him off for the safety of all parties involved.

I didn't know that it was illegal for dogs to jump and ours has a tendency to do that, mostly with men. We have managed to get him to tone it down with us for the most part but he will do it to men that he doesn't see as often and is fond of, like my dog walker. Thank you so much for letting me know that, I have a lot of reading up on the DDA to do as I'm fast becoming aware that my dog has very little protection in terms of the law so need to do all I can to prevent any further incidents. It's amazing really, thinking of all the dogs that have jumped at me because they can smell the treats in my pocket or on my hand, I wouldn't dream that this could ever be against the law but I guess there must be a legitimate reason for it to be this strict.
Both mine are collies, so I understand your concerns about exercise, we have a fairly big garden so they do get lots of playtime and run arounds without necessarily being off the lead but I understand it's not a luxury everyone has. Do you have a garden where you could work on recall instead of trying it out and about first, I certainly wouldn't let a dog off a lead period until I was comfortable with recall.

My tetchy boy is the same with children, but remember when he met the child he was in a controlled environment, no sticks or playing etc, you can never control how other people or children will react to your dog and vice versa. We tell children in the family the dangers "if you poke the dog in the eye, it will bite you" and I'm not totally understanding of other peoples children and get how annoying they can be to other humans, let alone dogs, but unfortunately you can't rationalise it away, a parent will always respond with "it doesn't matter, you should control your dog", sad but true.

I think it's stupid that it is a criminal offense, there really is very little protection for dog owners, but I can understand how someone who isn't dog friendly might feel if one jumped up even in play. Mine jumps up when he greets as he gets excited, but fortunately with people you know they normally laugh it off and enjoy, but the dog wont understand the difference sometimes.

You seem to be doing well with it though and taking the right steps, just be careful if you're trying to train him at night and you're anywhere near a road if he's recall isn't great.
Ahh I love collies, how old are yours? Our garden is medium sized and our neighbour suggested the same as you did in terms of using that to practise his recall - something we thought was a really good idea but embarrassed to say we haven't made time to try it out. We do enjoy playing hide and seek in the house though which he is really good at!
When he is in the dog park which is usually empty or has one other dog and owner, his recall is 99% perfect but that is the only place where you can rely on him to come back. It's distractions that are our downfall and I definitely won't be letting him off in the main park or country parks when there are others around for a long time, even after we have mastered his recall as because you have rightly said, it only takes one thing to distract them and you never know how they will react.

We've done the same when introducing him to children in the family but have not yet had to warn them from poking him as it took them a good while to go near him because of his size! He was on the lead all the time and we tried to take it really slowly by letting them drop treats in front of him.

I think that it's so sad how little protection dog owners have because ultimately it's our dogs, which as you said, are our babies that suffer the consequences and I wouldn't be able to live with myself if he was made to pay for my mistake. Weirdly enough, when I was little I used to go to a friend's house and her huge dog was always all over me and I hated it! I never said anything though and nobody called her off so I always thought that's just what happened!!

Thanks again for all of your support and advice, you've been so helpful and reassuring xx
Mine are 4 and 9ish, rescues so not exactly sure. The youngest one has a particular thing for pigeons, so even though he can ignore most distractions, I know for sure he's chase a bird! You can never be sure what one thing will set them off, but the good thing about gardens is you can create distractions and still test it!

I think to be fair that anyone waving sticks or shouting is likely to illicit a reaction from a dog, especially a young one so don't be worried that he's aggressive or doesn't like children, from what you've said he sounds lovely!

There's a few pet threads floating around you might find helpful! :)
Ahh bless them, I can totally relate to that. My neighbour has a big collie cross who is about 10 (rescue) and the most gentle, compassionate dog you will ever meet but the moment she sees a squirrel she will stop at nothing to get to it!

We'll have to stop being lazy and get him out in the garden definitely. He gave me such a scare today, went out of our padlocked side gate which had blown open in the wind unbeknown to me and ended up on a driveway half way down the street. Now his toilet visits are supervised!

Hopefully this picture works but this is our little fella Obie.jpg. You know when you look into his eyes that there is nothing but love and innocence but amazing how others can make you doubt what you know so well!

Thanks, will check the other pet threads out too :)
Ah he's so gorgeous! Proper fluffy, and you're right he does look huge!