Protecting Children From Dog Bites

Dogs are popular pets in this country. With more than 60 million pet dogs in the United States, they are only slightly less popular than cats. Dogs and kids often get along just fine, but parents need to make sure their children know how to act around a dog to stay safe.

U.S. children suffer more than 2 million dog bites a year, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). “A dog that attacks is very often the family pet,” says the AVMA’s Bernadette Cruz, D.V.M. “Education is the key to solving an issue that’s reaching epidemic proportions.” Dog owners and children can both learn to prevent bites.

If you own a dog or plan to buy one:

  • Choose the breed carefully. Your vet can help you pick a pup.

  • Socialize your dog. Start when the dog is a puppy.

  • Train your dog. This helps a dog learn to trust and obey you.

  • Have your dog neutered. Males that have not been neutered account for up to three out of four bites.

  • Keep your dog’s shots current.

Many parents don’t realize how a small child’s boisterous activity or loud behavior can confuse a dog, or how a child’s invasion of a dog’s space might provoke the animal. If you have a small child or infant, never leave the youngster alone with a dog, Dr. Cruz says. Even when you are with your young child around a dog, keep a close eye on their interaction to avoid potential problems.

You and your child should also look for signs that a dog is aggressive, afraid or protecting his territory — three reasons for bites. Watch for:

  • Growling, snarling or barking

  • Crouching with the head low or the tail between the legs

  • Fur that’s standing up, erect ears, a stiff body and a high tail

  • Obvious injury or pain

You can teach your child how to act around a dog, whether yours or another’s. Tell your child to:

  • Stand still, keep his hands down and avoid eye contact if a strange dog comes near.

  • Curl into a ball and cover her head, neck and face if knocked down.

  • Avoid dogs that are cornered, chained, in a car or behind a fence.

  • Never play rough with any dog.

  • Never break up a dogfight.

  • Ask before petting a dog he doesn’t know.

  • Avoid surprising older dogs. If they’re deaf or blind, they may bite.

  • Keep her face away from a dog’s head.

  • Never hold the dog around the neck or try to hug the dog.

  • Avoid disturbing a dog that’s sleeping, eating or caring for puppies.

If a dog bites your child, wash the wound with warm, soapy water, cover it with a clean bandage and call your doctor. If the bite is bleeding heavily, apply direct pressure and raise it above heart level until the bleeding stops. Contact the dog’s vet to check its vaccination records.

Publication Source: Starting Out Healthy magazine
Author: Bramnick, Jeffrey
Online Source: American Veterinary Medical Association
Online Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention