An estimated 4.5 million persons in the United States are bitten by dogs each year. Of these, roughly 800,000 persons seek medical care for the bite. Almost half of those seeking medical care are children under the age of 12. Children are often bitten on the face, and any bite can cause severe injury or infection. Children's small size may cause a dog to act in a dominant way toward a child. Children's inherent lack of judgment and ignorance about how to behave around a dog and their inability to fend off an attack can add to the risk. It is very important that parents closely supervise children around dogs. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, you can reduce the chances of children in your care being bitten or injured by a dog if you teach them some basic safety tips:
- Never approach an unfamiliar dog.
- Never run from a dog and scream.
- Stay still when an unfamiliar dog comes up to you ("be still like a tree").
- If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and lie still ("be like a log").
- Do not look a dog in the eye.
- Do not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
- Do not pet a dog without letting it see and sniff you first.
- Never play with a dog unless supervised by an adult.
- Never leave an infant or child alone with any dog.
- Teach your dog submissive behaviors, like rolling over to show its stomach.
- Do not play aggressive games with your dog, such as wrestling.
- Seek medical care for any serious dog bite and report all dog attacks.
- Support animal-control programs in your community and the enforcement of local laws regulating dangerous or vicious dogs.
- Support dog bite prevention educational programs in schools.
- Get the advice of a veterinarian about the right breed of dog if you are thinking about getting a family dog.
- Spay or neuter your dog, this often reduces its aggressive tendencies.
- Be sure all pets are properly immunized.
- Seek a veterinarian's advice quickly if your dog becomes aggressive.
For more safety tips, view and download the publication, "A Community Approach to Dog Bite Prevention," which is intended to help local and state leaders develop comprehensive dog bite prevention programs that can effectively reduce dog bite injuries in their communities.