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Kids and Dog Bites

Dog Bite Prevention

By

Updated May 19, 2003

Many kids grow up with a dog in the house. And in most cases, it is great. Having a pet has many benefits, including teaching responsibility if your child helps take care of his daily needs. Having a dog also offers companionship and can teach social skills, such as not to be too rough when playing. Plus having a dog can be a lot of fun.

One of the main downsides of allowing your children, especially younger ones, around a dog is that sometimes dogs bite. In fact, the CDC estimates that almost 5 million people a year are bitten by a dog in the United States, with as many as 800,000 people, more than half of them children, requiring medical attention for these dog bites and about a dozen people dying from dog bite injuries.

These dog bites are a big health problem, but one that is largely preventable. That is why it is important to help reduce your child's chances of being bitten by a dog.

One of the easiest and most important things that you can do is to not leave your younger children alone around a dog, not even the family dog.

According to the CDC, other tips include:

  • Carefully choose your pet dog. Evaluate your environment and lifestyles and speak with a professional to determine the appropriate type of pet.
  • Dogs should be neutered to reduce aggressive tendencies.
  • Be sensitive to cues that a child is fearful or apprehensive about a dog.
  • Teach children basic safety around dogs and review regularly.
  • Dogs with histories of aggression are inappropriate for families with children.
  • Do not play aggressive games with your dog; for example, wrestling.
  • Never approach an unfamiliar dog. Immediately report stray dogs or dogs displaying unusual behavior.
  • Remain motionless when approached by an unfamiliar dog -- never run or scream.
  • Do not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
  • If knocked down by a dog, lie still and remain in a ball.
  • If bitten by a dog, immediately report the bite.
One myth of dog bites is that your child will most likely be bitten by a dog he doesn't know. However, most experts report that about half of dog bites are from a dog that the child may be familiar with, either the family's own dog or that of a neighbor. In one report, Fatal Dog Attacks, 1989-1994, of fatal dog bites, only '22% involved an unrestrained dog off the owner's property.'

Which Dogs Bite?

There are some reports that may indicate that certain breeds of dogs are more likely to bite or be involved in fatal bites than others. For example, one study, Which Dogs Bite? A Case-Control Study of Risk Factors, found that biting dogs were more likely to be 'German Shepherd or Chow Chow predominant breeds, to be male, to reside in a house with one or more children, and not to be neutered' and 'were also more likely to be chained while in the yard.'

Other examples of aggressive dogs, which may have a higher attack rate, include the Bull Terrier, Cocker Spanial, Collie, Doberman Pinsher, Great Dane, Pit bull, Rottweiler, and Siberian Husky.

However, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 'There is no such thing as a bad breed of dog. All dogs can bite if provoked.' So instead of concentrating on the breed of dog, you should just keep your kids safe around any dog.

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