Most kids don't think a cuddly dog would ever hurt them. But about 4.7 million
happen every year in the United States. Of kids bitten, more than half are under age
14. Dog bites can be much more than an innocent little nip, and some need care in
the hospital or even surgery.
How Can We Manage Other People's Dogs?
Any breed of dog might bite. Just because a dog is small or seems friendly doesn't
mean it can't do some damage. Even the nicest, best-trained family dog may snap if
it's startled, scared, threatened, angry, or hungry.
No matter how well you think you know the dog, always supervise your kids around
someone else's pet. To reduce the risk of bites, teach kids these safety guidelines:
Always ask the owner if it's OK to pet the dog.
Let the dog see and sniff you before petting it.
Do not run toward or away from a dog.
If an unfamiliar dog approaches you, stay calm, don't look it directly in the
eye, and stand still or back up slowly.
If a dog tries to bite you, put anything you can between you and the dog. If knocked
over by a dog, roll into a ball, cover your face, and lie still.
Make sure that your kids understand some "nevers" about being around dogs:
Never squeeze dogs too tight, drop them, fall on them, or jump on them.
Never tease dogs or pull their tails or ears.
Never bother dogs while they're eating, sleeping, or taking care of their puppies.
Never take a toy or bone away from a dog or play tug of war with a dog.
Never feed a dog a treat with your fingers. Put the treat in your palm with your
fingers and thumb held close together.
Never crowd a dog or back it into a corner.
What Should Dog Owners Do?
Before getting a dog, talk to a professional (such as a veterinarian or respected
breeder or pet shelter) about what type of dog or breed is best for your household.
Ask questions about the dog's temperament and health. A dog with a history of aggression
is not a suitable pet for a household with kids.
If your family has a dog, make sure it gets all required immunizations and regular
vet checkups. Also, have it spayed or neutered. Consider taking your dog to obedience
school to make it more social and obedient, and thus less likely to bite someone.
When you take your dog out in public, always keep it on a leash so you can be in
control if its behavior gets out of hand. If you have kids, closely supervise them
when they're around the dog and never leave an infant or toddler alone with your pet.
What If a Dog Bites Our Child?
If a dog bites your child, contact your doctor, especially if the dog is not yours.
Some dog bites need to be treated in an emergency
department. Some dog bites can seem minor on the surface but can cause deeper
injuries to muscle, bone, and nerves.
While rare, rabies
and other kinds of infections from dogs like bacterial
infections can happen and should be treated right away. Your doctor will let you know
if your child needs antibiotics to prevent a dog bite from becoming infected. Not
all cuts (lacerations) due to dog bites are closed with stitches.
Sometimes, closing a wound can increase the risk of infection.
To help the doctor know the infection risk and what treatment your child might
need, try to have this information ready:
the name and location of the dog's owners
if the dog is up to date on its vaccinations
whether the attack was provoked or unprovoked. A provoked attack, for example,
includes approaching a dog while it's eating or or taking care of its puppies. Knowing
the attack was unprovoked lets the doctor know that the dog could be sick, which might
affect treatment decisions.
your child's immunization status and medical history