Even though dogs and children can get along adorably, it is important to keep safety and dog bite prevention in mind whenever the two interact. Dog bites are a serious risk for young children.
In the United States, an estimated 4.5 million dog bites occur per year, and half of the victims are children. Many of those bites come from familiar dogs in a familiar setting, or even at home, so it is important for children to learn how to play with them as safely as possible.
Teaching safety protocol around dogs
According to an analysis done by the National Trauma Data Bank, 30% of child dog bite victims were under 2 years of age, and 34% were between 6 and 12 years old. Bites are more common among children who may still be learning how to interact with dogs and when to avoid them.
To prevent dog bites, parents can teach rules about when and how to pet dogs. Learning how to pet and play with dogs gently is just as important as learning when to avoid dogs. Children may unintentionally provoke dogs with unpredictable, fast or loud behavior. Some examples of rules for interacting with dogs include:
- Avoid dogs that do not have an owner present
- Ask permission from an adult before petting
- Do not pet dogs while they are eating or otherwise occupied
- Stay away from dogs that growl or seem scared
Since it is more difficult to teach safety skills to children under 2 years old, supervision is the best way to prevent dog bites before they happen to children in this age group. Parents can benefit from learning warning signs that a dog may attack a small child. An intense focus, circling, or barking can signal that a dog feels aggression toward a toddler.
Children encounter dogs on a regular basis, so learning to interact with them safely is an important life skill that parents can pass on.