It is important for children and their parents to know that any dog can bite and cause serious injury. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about
Children tend to excite dogs when they are loud and move about quickly. Young children may not know how to treat a dog, and may be too aggressive or even hurt a dog. A threatened dog that cannot flee has no recourse but to bite.
The CDC says children age 5 to 9 are most likely to be bitten by a dog, but smaller children can be more seriously injured. As children get older, boys are more likely than girls to be injured by a dog.
The American Veterinary Medical Association says educational programs that address how to avoid being bitten or attacked by a dog best serve children in kindergarten through grade 4. Parents can teach their children appropriate behavior at any time they and their children are around a dog.
Here are 10 tips for avoiding dog bites from the CDC, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the For Kids’ Sake Safety Around Dogs Program:
- Learn and teach what an agitated or anxious dog looks like. A scared dog can be identified by ears standing up, back fur standing on end, tail straight up, growling and bared teeth. An anxious or scared dog may try to make itself look smaller by shrinking into a crouch, lowering its head, repeatedly licking its lips, putting its tail between its legs, flattening its ears back and yawning.
- Stay away from a dog that is agitated or scared. Children should not play with any dog unless an adult is present.
- Never walk up to dog you do not know. If an unfamiliar dog approaches you, remain still and let the dog sniff you. Dogs identify others by sniffing them.
- Speak softly and move slowly around dogs. Loud voices and quick movements can excite a dog and be interpreted as aggression. Teach children to never tease a dog.
- If you are confronted by an aggressive dog, stay calm. First stop and be still. Do not make eye contact with the dog. Back away slowly. If chased, never try to outrun a dog. “Feed” the dog something it will grab, like a jacket, book bag or bicycle, to put something between you and the dog or to distract the dog.
- Never pet a dog you do not know well without asking the owner first. Always ask the owner before approaching a dog on a leash. If the owner says it’s okay, let the dog sniff the back of your closed hand. Then gently pet the dog’s back or sides.
- If a dog is eating, sleeping, playing with a toy, or tending to its puppies, it should be left alone.
- If you are knocked down by a dog, roll into a ball, with your knees folded into your stomach, your hands covering the back of your neck, and your forearms across your ears. Lie still and, in a calm, firm voice, say “No!”
- If you own a dog, don’t teach it to be aggressive. Don’t play aggressive games with your dog (e.g., wrestling). Teach it not to jump up on people.
- Spaying or neutering a dog may reduce its aggressive tendencies.