According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 4.7 million dog bites occur in the U.S. each year. Of those occurrences, nearly half involve
children between the ages of 5-9. Yet, these statistics should not come as a surprise considering that there are 70-80 million dogs owned in the U.S (source: ASPCA). With that many dogs in people’s homes, it’s no wonder that household pets account for nearly half of all dog bites.
Preventing a Dog Bite
A recent study conducted by the American Academy of Family Physicians confirmed that about half of all dog bite incidents involve household pets and young children. Keeping that in mind, prevention efforts should focus on two things: responsible pet ownership and educating children about interacting with dogs.
Communicating With Dogs
The best way of preventing a bite is learning the proper way to communicate with dogs. Dog experts have written hundreds of books on this subject but there is no need to read them all. Following a few basic rules and imparting this information to your children is all that’s needed to keep you and your family safe. Here is what you need to know:
- Stay away from dogs you don’t know.
- When approaching a dog that is unfamiliar to you, do so slowly. Give the dog a chance to assess the situation and approach you on its own terms.
- Never leave a young child alone with a dog, even if it’s a family pet. Young children cannot understand a dog’s body language so they should never be left unsupervised.
- Never play with a dog that is eating, sleeping, or caring for its pups. A dog may interpret this action as an invasion of its territory and become aggressive. Teach your children to respect a dog’s privacy and refrain from touching its nose and mouth.
- Be cautious when handling a dog that is sick or injured (even if it’s a dog you know). Dogs that are in pain sometimes react in an unusual manner.
- Always be on alert for signs of aggression. These include the following:
- The dog will bare its teeth.
- The hairs on its back will rise.
- The dog will stare directly at you.
- The dog’s ears will move down or perk all the way up.
Reacting to Aggression
If a dog is exhibiting signs of aggression, the most important thing to do is stay calm! Do not run away or show any fear. Stand completely still and do not look directly into the dog’s eyes. Eventually the dog will lose interest in you giving you the chance the back away slowly.
If the dog does not seem to be losing interest, try to get something between you and the dog. If the dog lunges to attack, lie face-down with your fists behind your neck. Be sure to protect your ears with your forearms. Lay motionless in this position until the dog moves away.
- ASPCA Lesson Plan: Teaching Kids How to Communicate With Dogs
- 2014 Dog Bite Fatality Statistics
- Pet Ownership Statistics
- Dog Bite Facts