Did you know that more than 50% of the 4.7 million dog bite victims each year are children? Did you also know that they’re far more likely to be seriously injured as a result of a dog bite than adults are? While only 12% of adults receive medical attention after a bite, nearly 26% of all children require care.
Believe it or not, children are most likely to be bit in their own home or at the home of a friend. In fact, up to 77% of biting dogs are owned by the victim’s own family, friend, or relative. Unfortunately, the reality is that most children are bite by the very dogs that they love most, play with, and live with.
Dog bites are not rare occurrences. They can happen to just about anyone and for many reasons. Dogs will bite out of fear, anxiety, or stress. They can also be provoked to bite if they are guarding a person, place, or one of their favorite things. Finally, dogs might bite if they’re feeling tired or ill or while they’re playing.
Chihuahuas, bulldogs, pit bulls, and German shepherds have the highest rate of dog bites, but the truth is that any dog can bite, even the most friendly or socialized pups.
While the risk of death is extremely low for dog bites (you only have a 1 in 112,400 chance of dying), and most dogs bites don’t cause inquires, the reality is that it can happen. And with children being at a much greater risk than adults, it’s important to educate them so that you can keep your children safe.
Here are some ways you can limit the risk of dog bites for your children:
Do your research before bringing home a dog
If you already have children, thoroughly research the breeds that you might be interested in. If you’re looking to purchase or adopt a pure bred, you’ll want to be sure to do some research on any potential breeders as well.
Make sure that you’re purchasing your new pup from a reputable breeder and ask for any health papers they might have.
If you’re adopting your new puppy or dog from a shelter, ask for a history on your potential pup. If they have a history of aggression, this is not a dog you want to bring home.
Spend some time with your potential family member prior to signing any adoption papers. Sit with them one on one, play with them, or take them for a walk if you can. This can be a good gauge as to whether they’ll be a good fit for your family.
Properly socialize and train your dog
Once you bring your new dog home make socialization and obedience training a priority. Training your dog will create a strong bond built on respect, trust, and love. Finally, training your dog helps to create boundaries and shows them what behaviors are and are not acceptable. Proper socialization is also key. The more you expose your dog to new people, places, and things, the more comfortable they will be.
Spay or neuter your dogs
Most dog biting incidents involve dogs that aren’t spayed or neutered. For whatever reason, spaying or neutering your dog reduces aggressive tendencies.
Teach your children how to properly interact with dogs
Educate your children about dogs and their behavior. Let them know that it’s never okay to:
- Approach a strange dog
- Approach a dog that is barking, growling, or lunging.
- Run or scream from a dog.
- Bother a dog that is eating or sleeping.
- Take a toy from a dog
- Put their hands in a dog’s food or water bowl.
- Crawl on, hit, pinch, punch, or yank on a dog.
- Scream or yell at a dog.
- Tease a dog by taking away their treats, toys, or food.
Instead teach them to do the following:
- Respect their dog’s space. Their bed, crate, or blanket is their own special place and should be treated as such.
- Respect when your dog no longer wants to play. If your dog walks away from play time, it’s over.
- Always show your dog love.
- Ask for permission before petting or approaching a dog they don’t know.
- Always pet a new dog in “safe” places like under the chin.
- Remain motionless if a strange dog approaches them.
- Always allow a dog to sniff you before you pet them.
- Always remain calm around dogs. Don’t encourage rough or aggressive play.
Teach your children the warning signs of aggression in dogs
Teach them to look out for the following: barking, growling, lunging, snapping, hair standing on end, showing teeth, yawning, licking lips, avoiding eye contact, or a rigid body. These are all signs that a dog is afraid, anxious, or stressed and may escalate their behavior into full on aggression. There are plenty of helpful infographics that you can find online to teach them canine body language.
The best way to protect your child from potential dog bite injuries is to ensure that they’re always supervised when they’re around dogs. Never let your children play with or walk the dog by themselves. If you see your children behaving inappropriately, calmly instruct your child in ways that they understand on how to properly play and interact with dogs.