Children are unaware of the risks of approaching frightened dogs

Children understand the risks of approaching an angry dog but they are unaware that they should show the same caution around frightened dogs.

That is one of the findings of a study by Dr Sarah Rose and Grace Aldridge of Staffordshire University who will present their findings at the 2016 British Psychological Society’s Developmental Psychology Section annual conference in Belfast.

Dr Rose said: “UK statistics show that young children are at the highest risk of being bitten by a dog with nearly 1200 admissions to hospital for under 10’s during 2013-2014. This study explored whether the explanation is that they are unable to accurately recognize a dog’s emotions when approaching one.”

Two groups of children aged 4 to 5 (57) and 6 to 7 years old (61) were asked to watch 15 videos and look at 15 images showing real life behavior of dogs. Video clips were all between 6 and 11 seconds long, the only auditory information was the barking of the dog. Only images and videos were used for which two vet nurses and two laypeople had agreed on the emotion being shown.

Both groups were then asked questions relating to their intention to approach the dog (Would you play with this dog?) and what emotion they thought the dog was experiencing (How happy/angry/frightened do you think this dog is feeling?).

Analysis of the results showed that the children recognized happy, angry and frightened dogs in videos and images at above the level of chance. Furthermore, they recognized angry dogs more accurately than happy or frightened dogs.

However, although the children were less likely to approach an angry dog there was no difference in their inclination to approach a happy or frightened dog.

Dr Rose said: “Young children are relatively good at accurately identifying the emotion that a dog is displaying. However, children’s understanding of safety around dogs is lacking as they only demonstrated caution about approaching angry dogs. They appeared to be unaware that there might be problems approaching frightened dogs. This finding should help inform dog bite prevention campaigns.”


Laurelwood Animal Hospital,located near Jesuit High School on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway offers a full range of companion animal services, including surgery, nutrition and behavior counseling, parasite control and preventative medicine. The hospital also offers advanced imaging through an all-digital spiral CT scanner, a comprehensive dental program and laser treatment.

If you’re looking for quality, compassionate veterinary care in Beaverton, Oregon, come visit us at Laurelwood Animal Hospital.

Laurelwood Animal Hospital

9315 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway
Beaverton, Oregon 97005

Phone: (971) 244-4230
Fax: (503) 292-6808

E-mail: [email protected]