We may think that our pets will never bite us or anyone else. However, 4.5 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs every year and most of them are by animals they know. Of these, 885,000 require medical attention. Some people, especially children, can be seriously disfigured or even killed by an attack. Fortunately, there are ways that you and your children can stay safe when in the presence of canines.
Children between the ages of 5 and 9 years old are most likely to be bitten by dogs. In addition, adult males and anyone who has a dog in their home have a greater chance of being bitten. Those with more than one dog are five times more likely to suffer a bite.
Before you bring a dog home
Although most children love animals, including dogs, others are more fearful. Take your child’s feelings into consideration before bringing one home. If your child seems especially scared about having a dog in the home, it is a good idea to wait until he or she is older.
If you have children in your home, you will need to spend some time ensuring that you bring home a safe breed. Some breeds, such as pitbulls, Rottweilers and Doberman Pinschers, are known for aggression and should be avoided. Labrador retrievers, poodles, beagles and collies are family-friendly. You may also want to consult with a vet, dog breeder or animal behaviorist to determine what type would work best for your family.
Before bringing one home, spend some time with it if possible. By interacting with it on several different occasions, you can get a good feel of the dog’s personality as well as how it reacts to you and your child.
When a dog is already is in your home
Keep you and your children safe when interacting with your dog. Spaying or neutering is recommended, as this can decrease aggression. You should properly train your dog to be submissive, which includes behaviors such as rolling over and giving up food without growling. Always supervise your dog when around children. Never let young children play with the dog alone. In addition, you can reduce bites by avoiding aggressive games.
Be a responsible pet owner. Keep your pet up-to-date on vaccinations, especially rabies. Be sure your dog is licensed. Keep your dog locked up or in the house when you cannot supervise him. Do not allow him to roam outdoors if you cannot watch him.
Socialize animals from a young age so they can experience various situations without fear. This fear can lead to aggression and bites. If your dog begins to develop aggressive behaviors, seek the help of an animal behaviorist who can help you control him.
Avoiding dog bites
When children get older, teach them some rules about approaching other dogs. Just because their dog is friendly does not mean that all of them are.
- Never get close to a dog you don’t know, especially one that is tied up or inside a kennel.
- Always ask the owner before petting.
- Do not stare into their eyes.
- If you see a loose dog, tell an adult. Do not approach it or try to pet it.
- Do not come near dogs that are eating, sleeping, playing with a toy or taking care of puppies.
If a dog approaches you
If you or your child is approached by a dog, follow these tips:
- Do not scream or run away. Instead, stay still and quiet.
- If you are knocked over, roll into a ball and lie still.
- If he leaves you alone, back away slowly.
- If he continues to attack you, distance yourself between you and the dog by putting a bicycle, jacket or other object in front of you.
If you are bitten
No matter how hard you try to get the dog to back off, he may still attack you. If he does, do the following:
- Rinse any wounds with soap and water as soon as you are able.
- Seek medical treatment immediately if the wounds are deep.
- Report the bite to local animal control officers. Be sure to tell them anything you know about the dog, such as where he lives, what he looks like and in what direction he went.
If your dog bites someone
A owner’s worst fear is having their dog bite someone. If this happens to you, stay calm. Confine your dog immediately and check on the victim. Call for medical help if needed. Give the victim information about your dog’s vaccinations. Cooperate with animal control officers and follow their instructions. For example, you may be required to quarantine your pet for a specific period of time.
After the quarantine period, find resources that can help you modify aggressive behavior. Your vet can recommend a trainer or animal behavior specialist who can help. If training still does not control your dog’s behavior, contact your vet or local humane society to determine your options.