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Home / News and Events / News Releases / Talk to your children about dog safety
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Talk to your children about dog safety
May 1, 2014

Trying out a new family pet.

Dogs bite nearly 4.5 million Americans each year, half of which are children. The risk is highest among children 5-to 9 years old, with the face being the most frequent target.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five dog bites results in injuries that need medical attention. Spring and summer are peak times for bite-related injuries because children have more opportunities to interact with dogs at parks, family gatherings, or in the neighborhood.  

Read our common-sense precautions for keeping you and your children safe around dogs, including your own family pet.

Before you bring a dog into your house

  • Be sensitive to cues that your child is not ready for a dog. If your child seems frightened by dogs, it may be best to wait until  they feel more comfortable. A dog with a history of aggression is not a good fit with children.
  • Work with a local animal shelter, rescue organization or reputable breeder. They can help you find breeds and dogs within those breeds that are a good fit for your family.
  • Veterinarians can suggest a reputable trainer for your new family member.
  • Spend time with a dog before buying or adopting it into the family. Use extra caution when bringing a dog into a household with an infant or toddler.

Once you decide to bring a dog into your home

  • Spay or neuter your dog because this often reduces aggressive tendencies.
  • Never leave infants or young children alone with a dog.
  • Don’t play aggressive games with your dog, such as wrestling.
  • Properly socialize and train any dog entering your household. Teach the dog submissive behaviors such as rolling over to expose its belly and giving up food without growling.
  • Immediately seek professional advice from veterinarians, animal behaviorists, or responsible trainers if your dog develops aggressive or undesirable behaviors.

Teach children basic safety tips and review them regularly

  • Do not approach an unfamiliar dog.
  • Do not run from a dog or scream.
  • Tell your children to be still like a tree when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
  • If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and be still.
  • Do not play with a dog unless supervised by an adult.
  • Tell an adult about stray dogs or dogs displaying unusual behavior.
  • Avoid direct eye contact with a dog.
  • Do not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
  • Do not pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.
  • If bitten, report the bite to an adult.

When a dog bites, the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends the following actions:

If your own dog bites your child, confine it immediately and call your veterinarian to check your dog’s vaccination records. Consult with your veterinarian about your dog’s aggressive action. Your veterinarian can examine your dog to make sure it is healthy, and can help you with information or training that may prevent bites.

If someone else’s dog bites your child, first seek medical treatment for the wound. Next, contact authorities and tell them everything you can about the dog: the owner’s name, if you know it; the color and size of the dog; where you encountered the dog; and if, where, and when you’ve seen it before. These details may help animal-control officers locate the dog. In addition, consider asking your physician if post exposure rabies prophylaxis is necessary.

Related Links: Adopting a New Pet: What We Learned
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