Did you know that of the 4.7 million Americans bitten by dogs every year, more than half are children? The U.S. Postal Service, the medical community, veterinarians and the insurance industry are working together to educate the public that dog bites are avoidable. National Dog Bite Prevention Week is starting May 19, 2012. Here’s what you need to tell your children to reduce their risk of getting bitten by a canine.
My dog won’t bite
Whether you’ve heard someone say “my dog won’t bite” about their pawed pal or you have recited it to others about your own pup, seemingly gentle dogs can and do bite. We love our dogs but accidents happen and we should never assume that our dog is worry-free, especially around children. “Children are three times more likely than adults to be bitten by a dog,” says Prevent The Bite president Kathy Voigt, whose daughter Kelly, was mauled by a neighborhood dog. “Education is essential to keeping children safe from dog bites.” The attack prompted the creation of Prevent The Bite, a non-profit organization that promotes dog bite prevention to young children.
Watch your kids
Because dog bites are a harsh reality, with some attacks even ending in the death of a child, experts strongly advise against leaving your kids alone around a dog — even a familiar dog. President of the American Pediatric Association Dr. Robert Block adds, “Even very young children should be taught not to tease or hurt animals. And with school almost over for the year, children will be spending more time in parks, at friends’ homes, and other places where they may encounter dogs. They need to know what to do to minimize the risk of being bitten.”
Tips to prevent dog bites and attacks
1. Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog. Dogs can be unpredictable and it is better to prevent an attack before it occurs.
2. Tell your kids to avoid running past a dog. A dog’s natural instinct is to chase and catch you.
3. Experts advise that if a dog threatens you, don’t scream. Avoid eye contact. Try to remain motionless until the dog leaves, then back away slowly until the dog is out of sight.
4. Warn your kids to never approach a strange dog. Whether a dog is loose in the neighborhood, tethered in a neighbor’s yard, or confined in a crate in the house, teach your kids to avoid petting or getting close to an unfamiliar dog.
5. Don’t disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating or caring for puppies.
6. Make a rule that your kids must not pet a dog unless they first obtain permission from the owner. Most dog owners appreciate this, too.
7. Always let a dog see and sniff you before petting the animal. Practice this in front of your kids so they understand what they need to do.
8. If you believe a dog is about to attack you, try to place something between yourself and the dog, such as a backpack or a bicycle.
9. If attacked and knocked down by a dog, teach your kids to curl into a ball and protect their face with their hands.