How to prevent your child from being bitten by a dog

Every year, 4.5  million people are bitten by dogs. Among children, the incidence of dog-bite injuries is the highest of those between the ages of 5-9 years of age.  With these statistics in mind, it’s important for adults to have a basic understanding of what preventative measures they can take to keep their children from being bitten by a dog.

New Dog Precautions to Prevent Biting

If you’re planning on adopting a dog from a shelter, make sure to inquire about the dog’s temperament according to the staff and volunteers at the facility.  Dogs with a history of aggression are not suitable for homes with young children.

Before bringing a new dog into your home, make sure you assess your child’s level of comfort around dogs.  If your child exhibits any fear or apprehension around dogs, they could actually trigger a dog’s aggression.  It’s far better to hold off on adopting a dog for a while than to risk your child’s safety.  Work on addressing your child’s fear issues around dogs before considering bringing a dog into your household. 

Advise your child not to be the first to approach an unknown dog.  Allow a new dog to practice the ritual of smelling your child first before interacting with him. Teach your child that dogs don’t like to be hugged around the neck or kissed.  Children are often bitten in the face or neck as a result of this practice. 

Understanding a Dog’s Body Language

Teach your children how to read dog’s body language.  Remember that dogs can’t talk with your child the way humans talk with each other.  Often they exhibit certain kinds of body language to “warn” people that they are not comfortable with the human’s approach or energy.  If the child doesn’t seem to “get it,” a dog may feel his only recourse is to bite. 

Common examples of body language that indicate a dog does not want to interact with a child might include stiff or very still posturing, lip smacking, growling or raising their tail as the child approaches.  Tell your child to avoid giving direct eye contact to a dog showing these signs and slowly back away from the dog.  Counsel your child to never scream or run away from a dog that shows these signs as this may trigger the dog’s prey instinct to bite the child.

Never allow your child to teach or taunt a dog, especially if he is eating or protecting a high value item such as his food bowl, a bone or a toy.  Never assume that your dog is foolproof around your child.  Ultimately, your responsibility is to supervise your child when he or she is interacting with your dog.  

And last but not least, always spay and neuter your pet.  Altered dogs are far less likely to bite than unaltered dogs.