If it's cute and fluffy, chances are your child will want to
touch it. And kids often don't think a cuddly dog would ever
hurt them. But the fact is that about 4.7 million dog bites happen
every year in the United States - and more than half of those
bitten are under the age of 14. Many times, dog bites are much more
than an innocent little nip - they often require hospitalization or
Teaching kids a few basic dog manners, though, will let them -
and dogs - enjoy safer encounters.
Other People's Pooches
Any breed of dog may bite. And just because a dog is small or seems
friendly doesn't mean it can't - or won't - do some
damage. Even the nicest, most well-trained family dog may snap if
it's startled, scared, threatened, agitated, angry, or
No matter how well you think you know the dog, always supervise
your child around someone else's dog. To reduce the risk of
bites, teach your child these safety guidelines:
- Always ask the owner if it's OK to pet the dog.
- Let the dog see and sniff you before petting it.
- Do not run toward or away from a dog.
- If an unfamiliar dog approaches you, stay calm, don't
look it directly in the eye, and stand still or back up
- If a dog tries to bite you, 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 the responsibility for preventing dog bites falls on
the owner's shoulders. If your family has a dog, make sure to
keep its immunizations up to date and have regular checkups with a
veterinarian. Also, have it spayed or neutered. Consider taking
your dog to obedience school - this will make it less aggressive
and more obedient, and thus less likely to bite someone.
When you take your dog out in public, always keep it on a leash
so you can be in control if your dog's behavior gets out of
hand. And if you have kids, closely supervise them while
they're around the dog. Never leave an infant or toddler alone
with a dog.
Even if you don't own a dog, make sure that your child
understands some "nevers" about being around dogs:
- Never squeeze dogs too tight, drop them, fall on them, or
jump on them.
- Never tease dogs or pull their tails or ears.
- Never bother dogs while they're eating, sleeping, or
taking care of their puppies.
- Never take a toy or bone away from a dog or play tug of war
with a dog.
- Never feed a dog a treat with your fingers. Put the treat in
your palm with your fingers and thumb held close together.
- Never crowd a dog or back it into a corner.
If a Dog Bites Your Child
If your child is bitten by a dog and the bite breaks the skin,
contact your doctor, particularly if the dog is not yours. While
and other kinds of infections can occur.
Having this information available can help the doctor determine
the risk of infection and what kind of treatment, if any, your
- the name and location of the dog's owners
- if the dog is up to date on its vaccinations
- whether the attack was provoked or unprovoked
Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: July 2006
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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