Protecting Children from Dog Bites

More than 4 million Americans suffer dog bites annually in the United States, and 20 percent of these bites are serious enough to require medical attention.

Children between the ages of 5 and 9 have the highest rate of dog bite injuries, accounting for more than 15 percent of all dog bite injuries to children. Boys were more likely to be bitten than girls, and the likelihood of dog bite injuries decreases as children age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why Dogs May Bite

Various factors may play a part in why dogs bite. Some breeds may be more aggressive than others, while some dogs may not have been properly socialized as puppies. In order cases, the dog may bite to defend himself against a perceived threat to himself or his human family.

Leave Strange Dogs Alone

The first and most important rule children should learn to prevent dog bites is not to approach an unfamiliar dog unless a parent or other adult is with them. If a child is alone or with other children, he or she should leave strange dogs alone.

Almost as important as not approaching an unfamiliar dog without an accompanying adult is the idea that children should not tease or bother unfamiliar dogs. They should also leave dogs alone with the animals are sleeping, eating or take care of their puppies.

When becoming acquainted with an unfamiliar dog, children should move slowly and quietly. They should not run toward or away from the dog. They should not scream or yell, and they should allow the dog time to become accustomed to them.

The most common way for a dog to become accustomed to a new person involves the dog sniffing the person to become familiar with his or her scent. Children should stand still when a dog is sniffing them so they won’t startle the dog by moving suddenly or running away.

Children should report any dog bites to a parent or adult caregiver. They should also report unfamiliar stray dogs to an adult, and they should alert an adult to any dog they see acting strangely.

More Safety Tips

Here are some additional safety tips to help your child avoid becoming a statistic:

  • Don’t reach through a fence to pet a dog.
  • Don’t pet a dog without his owner’s permission. Ask the owner how the dog likes to be petted and if he has any special spots (behind the ears, on the top of his head) that he really likes to be pet.
  • Don’t hug or kiss a dog.
  • Don’t stick your face in a dog’s face.
  • Stand still if an unfamiliar dog approaches you.
  • Roll in a ball and lie quietly if a dog knocks you over. 
  • Don’t stare at a dog.

Dog bite injury prevention is important enough that a nonprofit organization has been founded to disseminate information to pet owners and parents. Preschoolers can even learn how to prevent dog bites by watching children’s programming on television.