Protecting children from dog bites

Dog bites are no laughing matter, particularly when the victims are children, who can be extremely frightened and traumatized by the attack and the resulting injuries. There are approximately 4.7 million people who suffer a dog bite injury in the U.S. each year, and over 50 percent of them are younger than 14.

Children between the ages of 5 and 9 years old are most at risk for dog bites, and often are too young to make much of an attempt to protect themselves against such attacks. Children’s doctors have made a series of suggestions as to what measures adults can take to help prevent their children from being victimized in this fashion. Here are a few of them.

• A pet dog should undergo training and learn to obey commands. Games played with a dog should encourage a gentle spirit of playfulness, such as retrieving a thrown ball, rather than encourage aggressiveness, as a game like tug-of-war may do.

• When choosing a family pet, breeds of dogs like collies and Labradors with child-friendly reputations may be preferable to some others. Advice from a veterinarian about how a breed of dog acts around children can be helpful. Vaccinating dogs against diseases is also important.

• Children should learn that they must not approach strange dogs suddenly. They should seek the permission of the dog’s owner, approach slowly, and give the animal a chance to see them approach and smell them. They should also be told that dogs may be startled or react impulsively if they are bothered when eating or sleeping.

In the event of an attack by a dog, children should be taught to freeze and avoid looking into the dog’s eyes. It is better to try to remain calm than to start screaming, which could further upset the dog.

Source: Health Magazine, “Simple steps can shield children from dog bites,” July 6, 2012