According to the CDC, approximately 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs in the United States every year. One in five of those bites require medical attention, that’s about 885,000 incidents, and over half of those are children. Over 30,000 of the mauling victims need reconstructive surgery to repair the damage, and about 16 deaths a year are attributed to dog attacks. The third week in May is “National Dog Bite Prevention Week” and many groups around the country use that time to help educate the public about ways to prevent dog bites.
Children aged 5 to 9 years old are at the most risk to dog bites, and boys are higher risk than girls. Small children that are killed by dogs are almost always bitten on the head or neck, and are often dragged. People with dogs in their homes are at higher risk to being bitten, and that risk increases with the number of dogs in the home. Among adults, men are more likely to be bitten than women.
While nobody is comfortable pointing a finger at specific breeds, the fact is that while all breeds have dogs that attack, some dogs are bigger and stronger, and therefore more likely to cause life threatening or fatal injuries. In the first third of 2013 there were 13 people killed by dogs in the USA, 12 of those were by pit bulls.
Do some research to choose a breed that will fit in well with your family and home. Spend some time with a dog before buying it or adopting it to get a feel for it’s personality. Dog bite prevention measures recommended by the AVMA is to spay or neuter your dog because it usually reduces any aggressive behavior that is associated with territory. Avoid teaching your dog aggressive games by wrestling with him because if he tries to “play” this game with someone else and the reaction is fear and panic it can cause him to attack.
Teach your dog to be submissive to humans and to respond immediately to commands. A well trained dog will always give up food without growling. If your dog shows signs of aggression, get professional help to train it out of him. Socialize your dog so that they are comfortable around other animals and children.
Specifically For Children
Don’t adopt a dog that has a history of aggression if you have children in the home. Some dogs are very sensitive to the sounds and sudden movements children make and their reactions can be unpredictable. Dogs can sense moods and fears so if a child is afraid of dogs you should never leave them alone with one, even if it is a familiar dog. Even if the dog is trying to win the child over, a panicked reaction from the child can cause a dog to attack.
Never leave infants or young children alone with any dog, even if the dog has never displayed any aggression toward the child. In just about every case of a child being killed by a dog it was the first time the dog behaved violently. Teach children to never approach an unfamiliar dog, and never to play with a dog that isn’t supervised by an adult. Teach them to freeze if approached by an unfamiliar dog because running and screaming may cause it to attack. If they get knocked down by a dog, teach them to roll in a ball protecting their head and face and be still. Explain to kids that they must never bother a dog that is eating, sleeping or taking care of puppies. Teach children how to present a closed fist for an approaching dog to sniff, and that they should not attempt to pat the dog on the head because this may feel like an act of aggression to the dog.
Lastly, when children are around your dog, make sure he has a safe place and secure boundaries where he is free to roam or hide away and teach children where the dogs area is and that they are not to go in the dogs space. Sometimes dogs will just wonder off to their safe place to get away from a situation that is stressing.
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Ryan Jackson is a freelance writer and dog blogger for the Carrollton Police Department who loves to write and inform people about safe, healthy ways to train dogs.