Helping to prevent dog bites to children

Sabin, Davis, Hetrick, Anderegg, Macalady, Walker, Darling and Katers

There are about 78 million dogs in the United States. Chances are children either have dogs or will meet them often. The CDC records 4.5 million bites each year and 60 percent are to children under the age of 15 months. Each day about 1,000 people require ER care.

Pet experts have recommendations to help keep children and animals safe. Young children should never be left alone with any dog, even the most trusted pet. Children are scary. They have jerky threatening movements, little fists, and shrill sudden squeals. Older children can be trained and demonstrate competent dog handling skills, knowledge of canine communication, and share a long established relationship based on mutual understanding, love, and respect.

Teach the kids

Families can educate children about how to behave and recognize bite risk situations. First, avoid any animals with no owner present. If a dog is tied up outside a door, keep walking no matter how cute, whether a stranger’s, a relative’s or friend’s dog.

If the owner is around always ask, “Is the dog friendly? Does he like children? May my children pet him? How?” Approach calmly with a flat hand only if his tail is wagging and he has a slightly open mouth, has a soft, relaxed, happy face, and a wiggly body.

If the tail is between his legs or standing straight up and mouth is closed with tight lips, ears forward, intense look, hard body or seems unenthusiastic, say thank you and walk on. If everything is ok, pet gently on the side of the neck.

Avoid risky acts

When children visit a house with a dog, ensure that the dog will be supervised. If walking and encounter a dog that is loose, seems excited or aggressive, teach children to be a little tree with no branches. Stop. Fold your branches (hands) and watch your roots grow (look at your feet) and count in your head until the dog goes away or help comes, experts advise.

Never pet a dog behind a fence, in a car, or crate. Never bother a sleeping, sick, old dog, or one with puppies, one that is eating, drinking, or chewing. Never approach a dog on furniture or a bed. Dogs are very choosey who hugs and kisses them, a major cause of facial bites.

Do not break up dogs fighting. Never pet a service dog. Never take something away from a dog or put your face in his face. Avoid rough play with a dog. He may decide “Enough!” Teach children to “be a rock” if the dog actually jumps on them or knocks them down. Curl up and protect face and neck with hands and arms.

If a bite occurs, seek medical care. For more see or Through the Seasons podcasts and live.