According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), dog attacks are the leading public-health problem of children, and a leading cause of injuries to minors and children. In fact, according to the organization, more than half of children will be bitten by a dog before reaching age 12. These injuries often are far more serious than a nip on the hand. In some cases, dog bites can result in brain injury, permanent disfigurement, and even death. In addition to the personal pain caused by canine attacks, lawsuits and criminal prosecution can be the end result for pet owners.
While most parents know how important it is to teach their children to be cautious of strange dogs, most childhood victims are bitten by dogs who are close to them. In fact, dogs owned by a child’s family and friends are the most likely culprits.
There are several things that parents can do to help prevent dog bites:
1) If your family owns a dog, socialize it out so that it feels comfortable with other animals and people. Keep the dog in calm situations and immediately remove it from any situation where it feels teased or threatened. Always keep your dog on a leash and take your dog to obedience school so that it is well trained. Also, take your dog to the vet regularly and make sure that your dog stays healthy. A family dog will even bite its owners if it is sick, injured, or in pain.
2) Teach your child to react correctly when approached by a dog. Teach your child to never run away from a dog, as this can encourage the dog to chase after the child. Show your child how to stay still until the dog leaves, or show the child how to back away slowly until he or she can no longer see the dog.
3) Practice with your child what to do in case of a dog attack. Make sure that you practice with your child so that your child knows to remain calm and avoid eye contact with the dog. Also, practice what might happen during a dog attack in which the child is knocked to the ground or falls to the ground. Teach your child to curl up into a ball, and to place their hands over their heads and necks to protect the face and head area. Practice this with your child until your child knows what to do. This is very important, since your child will likely be very frightened in the event of a dog attack and will be unlikely to remember anything you have told them. Your child is more likely to remember something you have practiced extensively.
4) Take a first aid course so that you know what to do in the event of a dog bite. Consider enrolling your child for a youngster’s version of the same course. If your child is attacked by a dog, knowing what to do can help you minimize possible injuries and can give your child a better chance of recovery.