According to the Center for Disease Control, it is estimated that 3.5 million children are bitten by dogs each year, and most victims are children under the age of 9. It is important that both adults and children understand the best ways to prevent suffering a bite.
All dogs can bite – even the family dog. If there are children in the household with a dog, it is important that an adult is always actively supervising their interactions. Even if a family dog has been well socialized, is always friendly and wonderful with children, kids don’t understand a dog’s warnings of discomfort. If the dog lets the child know it’s uncomfortable, but the child doesn’t understand, that is when a bite can happen. Supervision is the key to a child’s safety.
Hugs are for people. It is natural for a child to want to show affection to their four-legged friend, but we want to make sure it is in a safe way that the dog will enjoy. When a dog is hugged, they can feel restrained and bite to try to get out of the situation. It is important to teach your child that there are many ways to love their pet that don’t involve hugging them. Teach them to pet their dog under the chin or gently stroke them on the back to ensure safe interactions.
Let them eat in peace. Some people think that it’s important for them to be able to stick their hand in their dog’s food bowl or to take their food away while they are eating. How would that person feel is someone stuck their hand in your plate of food? Dogs need to be left alone when they are eating, which means giving them their own spot to enjoy their food without interruptions. If a dog becomes possessive of their food, they can bite whoever is around.
Give dogs space around their face. Kids love to give their dog kisses, but it is important that kids are taught to respect a dog’s space. Even if the family dog has learned to tolerate the children kissing them, a strange dog may not and a bite could occur.
Watch the approach. It is important that children understand that if they don’t know a dog, they should always ask the person who owns the dog if they can pet them first. They should never approach a dog they don’t know, even if they are with someone. If they see a dog that is without a person, they need to stay away from the dog, stand still and after the dog walks away they need to tell an adult. Stray dogs or dogs that are chained up can be likely candidates to bite.