Bite Prevention for Children

May 2, 2019   Tracey Aston   Behavior

As of March 2017, a total of 89.7 million dogs were estimated to live in U.S. households as pets. It's not hard to see why, dogs add so much to our lives – exercise buddies, cuddle partners, or just furry best friends who won't share your secrets. With all the wonderful additions dogs add to our lives, the fact of the matter still remains – we speak completely different languages.  A pet parent may know their dog's every ear twitch or head tilt, but all dogs are different.  Understanding dog body language and communication can go a long way in bite prevention. 

As always, children should not, under any circumstance be left alone with a dog, even their own family dog.  70% of all dog bites are to children and 55% of all dog bite fatalities occur in children less than 10 years old. According to the ASPCA, “The vast majority of dog bites are from a dog known to the person—his or her own pet, a neighbor's or a friend's.”  

Never leave a young child alone with a dog! Children should be actively supervised at all times. Being in the same room is simply not enough. Even if a parent is in the same room, a dog could turn and bite a child before a parent even has time to react. A bite can happen in a split second. All interactions between children and pets must be supervised with an adult present at all times!

Children should be taught that all dogs can bite. No matter how small, cute or fluffy a dog may be, they can still bite. No matter how friendly, how many times you've interacted with the dog in the past, or how close you are with a dog, they can still bite. 

Children should be taught basic canine communication, such as what it means when a dog is barking, growling or showing teeth. Freezing in place, wide eyed staring, lip licking and yawning are all signs of a stressed pet and a stressed or scared pet is more likely to bite.

Always teach children the proper way to pet a dog and dogs aren't toys! Never allow a child to pull a dog's tail or ears, pinch them, lay on them or pretend to ride them. Dogs feel pain too and may react negatively. Teach children that a dog should be respected while eating, sleeping or playing with a toy and they should never attempt to startle a pet awake or take their food or toy away while they're using it. A child should never grab and pull on a dog's collar, as this could startle or scare them and they could turn and bite.

Teach children that dogs can be protective of their property and their space, therefore, they should not attempt to approach a dog behind a fence, in a car or in their yard. This is true, even if they've met the dog in the past, such as a family member, friend or neighbor's house, especially if that person is not present. 

Never allow a child to scream or yell a dog or run up to them. The child may honestly be excited, but the dog may see this as an oncoming threat.  A dog on a tie out or leash is even more likely to react as they may feel trapped and have no where they feel they can flee. 

Don't allow a child to try to play wrestle with a dog or get between dogs while they're playing. Dogs play with their mouths, and even a non-aggressive dog play biting can injure a small child. Even if they dogs don't play bite, their mouths will be open during play, and an incident could occur. 

Children and dogs can make lifelong friendships and be the best of friends, but proper steps must be taken to teach children how to react around dogs.  Millions of dogs are an integral part of the family dynamic but the fact remains, they are still dogs and they still communicate much differently.  Children learning to respect their pets and recognize their communication style will go a long way in lowering the risk of a bite. 

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