Most children don’t think a cuddly dog would ever hurt them, but the fact is about 4.7 million dog bites happen every year in the United States, and more than half occur in children under the age of 14. Sometimes it may be just an innocent nip, but often these dog bites result in a child going to the hospital and even having surgery. Experts at Children’s of Alabama want parents to know that teaching kids about dog safety early on can help prevent the majority of these incidents.
Any Dog Can Bite
Dr. Bert Gaddis of Indian Springs Animal Clinic offers a better understanding of what may cause a dog to bite. Gaddis says first and foremost, it’s important to realize that any dog has the potential to bite. “Any dog no matter the breed or how sweet them seem can be pushed to that point unknowingly”, Gaddis says, “I tell pet owners with children, who probably feel very good around your pet, teach them not to approach strange animals. If it’s a dog with an owner, ask permission to pet that dog.”
Gaddis also says sometimes aggression in animals may be breed related, or even how the dog is raised. If the animal is raised to be defensive, or is often engaged in rough play, the dog may perceive a stranger as a threat even when that stranger is a child. Sometimes dog bites occur when the dog is feeding, and is very territorial around food. But even the nicest, most well-trained family dog may snap if it’s startled, scared, threatened, agitated, angry or hungry. And remember, even a small dog can have a dangerous bite.
In the event your child is around an unfamiliar dog, here are some tips to follow:
Interacting with an Unknown Dog:
- Teach your child to ask the dog’s owner for permission to pet their dog
- If the owner says yes, move slowly
- Allow the dog to see and sniff before petting
- Keep fingers together
- Avoid sudden, jerky motions
The state of Alabama has had a leash law in place since 1915, but local municipalities have the authority to have their own ordinances to better reflect the needs of the community.
Still, keep in mind, just because there may be a leash law, that doesn’t mean your child won’t encounter a roaming dog without a leash. It’s important to teach your child to know how to respond when they are approached by a strange dog.
When Approached by a Strange Dog:
Dr. Gaddis offers these important tips if you or your child has an encounter with a strange dog:
- Don’t Run
- Don’t Scream
- Don’t Make Eye Contact
- Don’t Turn Your Back
- Back Away Slowlu
- If a dog does try to bite, put anything you can between you and the dog.
- If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball, cover your face and lie still.
A lot of dog bites can be avoided with parental supervision. Never leave a child alone with a dog. And teach children to never tease an animal. Being safe and responsible around dogs is the first step in preventing a dog bite.