According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 4.5 million people sustain dog bites each year. Of these, approximately 885,000 require medical attention. Children are far more likely than adults to be the victims in these situations. Fortunately, there are some precautions that can help prevent dog bites.
Tips for Children and Parents
Dogs should always be supervised around young children. Parents should learn to recognize signs that a dog is anxious, distressed, or annoyed. Children should also be taught to spot these signs when old enough. Overt warnings, such as growling and showing teeth, are easy to spot. More subtle signs include yawning, pacing, or restlessness. The dog may also seem to be moving in slow motion. It may hold its ears down or backward, and may assume a “wall-eyed” look, with an abnormal amount of white showing in eyes that are wide open and glaring. Dogs exhibiting these types of behaviors should be separated from young children. Older children should be instructed to disengage from contact with any dog that is acting in this manner, even if the dog is the family pet. Below are some general guidelines for parents.
•Never approach a strange dog that is untended. If the dog’s owner is present, always ask permission before attempting to interact with the dog.
•Never reach over the top of a dog’s head or make direct eye contact. The dog may interpret these actions as a threat or a challenge.
•If a strange dog approaches you, stand perfectly still with your hands by your side or clasped in front of you and do not move. Alternatively, roll into a ball, pull your knees into your chest, and cover your ears with your hands. Do not run, make sudden movements, or speak loudly. Stay calm and quiet.
•Always treat dogs gently. Never pull the ears, tail, feet, or fur, or otherwise hurt any dog. Do not approach a dog that is eating or guarding a toy.
Taking the time to teach children how to interact with dogs in a safe manner can avoid a tragic and unnecessary accident.
Tips for Dog Owners
Do not allow your dog to run at large. Supervise your dog when outdoors, and make use of a collar or harness and leash. Spay or neuter your dog. Altered dogs, particularly males, are less aggressive and less likely to bite.
Be sure your dog is properly socialized and trained. Socialization is best accomplished as puppies. Before 16 weeks of age, a puppy should be introduced to as many healthy pets, people, situations, and objects as possible. This exposure should continue after 16 weeks of age, but remember that acceptance may be more difficult for older dogs. Basic obedience training is also mandatory. At a minimum, your dog should be trained to come to you on command. Avoiding situations where your dog may bite is the best form of prevention.