Dog attacks are the number one public health problem of children, with more than half of children bitten by age 12 - Dr. Dan Simpson, spokesperson for the Rhode Island Veterinary Medical Association. Dog bites are not just a normal part of childhood; they are traumatic and largely preventable.
The most common bite site is the face and in most cases the dog that bit was their own dog, a friend's or neighbour's dog and the bite occurred at someone's home. Clearly these data indicate that most bites are preventable through supervision, education of children and families and better training of dogs to accept the actions of children. Information to help you reduce the risk of a dog bite to your child is presented below.
The dog is protecting a possession, food or water dish or puppies.
The dog is protecting a resting place.
The dog is protecting its owner or the owner's property.
The dog considers itself dominant over the child and the child has done something the dog considers to be insubordinate (e.g., hugging the dog, moving into the dog's space, moving without permission from the dog, leaning or stepping over the dog).
The dog is frightened and the child has threatened it in some way (e.g., hugging the dog, rapid approach, leaning over or stepping over the dog).
The dog is old and grumpy and having a bad day and has no patience for the actions of a child.
The dog is injured.
The child has hurt or startled it by stepping on it, poking it or pulling its fur, tail or ears.
The dog has not learned bite inhibition and bites hard by accident when the child offers food or a toy to the dog.
The child and dog are engaging in rough play and the dog gets overly excited.
The dog views the child as a prey item because the child is running and/or screaming near the dog or riding a bicycle or otherwise moving past the dog.
There are usually warning signs before a bite occurs, but these can be very subtle and may be missed by many people. A dog may appear to tolerate being repeatedly mauled by a child and one day bites, surprising everyone. Signs that you should take very seriously that indicate that the dog is saying "I have been very patient with this child, but I am nearing the end of my patience", include:
The dog gets up and moves away from the child.
The dog turns his head away from the child.
The dog looks at you with a pleading expression.
You can see the "whites" of the dogs eyes, in a half moon shape.
The dog yawns while the child approaches or is interacting with him.
The dog licks his chops while the child approaches or is interacting with him.
The dog suddenly starts scratching or licking himself.
You may think that your dog loves to have the children climbing all over him and hugging him, but if you see any of these signs, then you are being warned that a bite could occur if the dog feels he has no other way of defending himself. Do your dog and your child a favour and intervene if you notice any of these signs.
Parents should supervise all interactions between children and dogs. A child should not be left alone with a dog unless that child has demonstrated competent dog handling skills and the dog respects the child. Parents can educate their children about how to behave around dogs and how to recognize a bite risk situation. If a bite occurs the child should be reassured that she/he is not at fault. The fault lies with the owner or adult handler of the dog. If a bite occurs the child should be seen by a doctor no matter how minor the injury may seem. In the case of a severe attack, trauma counseling should be sought for the child. The bite should be reported to the appropriate authorities.
Parents should teach children the following (these apply to their own dog, other dogs that they know and strange dogs):
Do not to approach dogs that are not their own, even if the dog is on leash with its handler (most children are bitten by a dog that they know, or by their own dog).
If you, as a parent, decide that you think it is safe for your child to approach a particular dog - teach your child the A.B.C. approach.
Ask your parent and the dog handler for permission.
Be a tree
Coochie coochie coo under the chin when you pat the dog.
Ensure that when a child visits a house with a dog, that the dog will not be unsupervised with the children.
Teach your child to "be a tree" when confronted with an unknown, overly friendly or hostile dog. Stop. Fold your branches (hands) and watch your roots grow (look at feet) and count in your head until the dog goes away or help comes.
Teach your child to "be a rock" if the dog actually jumps on them and knocks them down (curl up and protect face and neck with hands and arms).
Never stare at a dog in the eyes or put their faces up to a dog's face.
Never try to take something away from a dog.
Never go near a dog who is eating or drinking or chewing on something.
Never approach a dog that is on a bed or furniture.
Never approach a dog that is tied up or in a vehicle.
Never try to pet a dog through a fence or in a crate.
Never climb over a fence into a dog's yard, even if the dog is usually friendly.
Never try to break up a dog fight or interact with dogs that are play fighting.
Leave dogs alone that are sleeping, resting, injured, very old or with puppies.
A safe dog is one that is panting, face happy looking and wagging his tail enthusiastically.
A dangerous dog has his mouth closed, ears forward, intense look.
A dog about to bite may be growling, showing his teeth, raising fur along his back or holding his tail high in the air (he may even be wagging it).
Teach children to play safe games such as fetch that do not involve running or rough play and to play only with their own dog.
Supervise all interactions between children and your dog.
Attend obedience school and use a training method that stresses a reward-based approach (correction-based training methods can increase aggression).
Involve children in training and teach them to give the dog commands and reward the dog for obeying.
Child proof your dog or puppy (read the book Child Proofing Your Puppy by Brian Kilcommons).
Prevent food bowl aggression and guarding behavior using positive methods.
Teach your puppy bite inhibition but do not prohibit your puppy from biting altogether at first - a puppy must learn bite inhibition by learning to bite more and more gently and then to stop biting altogether.
Give your dog lots of positive social interactions with people and other dogs.
Give your dog lots of exercise.
Don't encourage any kind of aggressive behaviour or barking in your dog.
Don't chain your dog or leave him alone in a yard for extended periods.
Give your dog his own special place and don't allow him on furniture or on the bed.
Encourage children and other guests to leave the dog alone if he is resting in his special place, eating or chewing on something.
Teach your dog to walk on a leash without pulling.
Teach your dog not to jump on people.
Do not permit your dog to bark or paw at you or others for attention.
If your dog does show signs of aggression toward you or others, seek the help of a canine behaviourist.
Avoid using methods such as the "alpha rollover", shaking or pinning the dog to the ground - these may reduce aggression toward you, but may increase aggression toward children or other weaker family members.
Do not play tug-of-war or wrestling games with your dog and never allow children to play this way with the puppy or dog.
Use a crate, kennel, gates or closed doors to prevent your dog from interacting with visiting children when you cannot supervise.
Call your doctor in any of these situations:
Call your doctor in any of these situations: You have a cat bite. Cate bites are very prone to infection. you don't need to call your doctor for a scratch, unless you think the wound is infected.
You have a dog bite on your hand, foot or head, or you have another bite that is deep or gaping.