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Young children are at a greater risk for dog bites

July 08, 2013

Dog bites hurt. Want to know how I know? Because I got snapped at when I was a little girl, and I haven’t forgotten about it since then. I remember the incident like it was yesterday. My family was taking care of my grandparents’ dog while they were away – a springer spaniel named “Jenna.” Jenna had quickly become my friend, as we were lying on the floor watching movies one afternoon. I wanted to get as close to Jenna as I could, and found myself all up in her face. We had no boundaries, or so I thought. The next thing I know, Jenna, having none of it, snapped at my face, snagging the tip of my nose. I was traumatized, and wanted nothing to do with Jenna after that.

Now, Jenna was by no means, a dangerous, or vicious dog. She was a springer spaniel – a breed of dog that is known to be sweet, loving, and docile. And my parents had no reason to think that by having Jenna around, I could potentially get hurt. Even though I wanted to blame Jenna for the fear she had caused me (and my bloody nose), it was my fault. I had no business being in her face the way I was, and was only asking for trouble.

Unfortunately, I am one of many people with a story to tell about dog bites. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there are approximately 800,000 dog bite victims who require immediate medical attention in the U.S. annually. The good news is that there are steps you can take to help keep your kids, and family, out of harms way.

What are some proactive steps to take to avoid being bitten?

  • The number of recorded dog bite injuries is significantly higher for young children, than adults. NEVER leave a baby, or child, alone with a dog, no matter how sweet you think the dog is, or how well-behaved you think your child might be.
  • Educate your children, especially toddlers, on how to behave around dogs:
    • Never approach a strange dog.
    • If a dog approaches to sniff you, stay still. Usually, it will leave you alone, once it knows you are not a threat.
    • Do not reach through, or over, a fence in an attempt to pet a dog.
    • Always ask permission from the dog’s owner to pet the dog, first.
    • Don’t run past a dog. Dogs naturally think it’s a game and want to chase after things, which can cause them to become excited and aggressive at times.
    • Never disturb a dog while they are sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
    • Give them their personal space. Just like people, dogs like their personal space, too. Teach kids to stay away from a dog’s face and only pet a dog’s back, or stomach.
    • If you fall, or are knocked to the ground, curl up in a ball and put your hands over your head to protect your face.
    • If you ever feel threatened by a dog, stay calm. Do not scream, or yell at the dog. Instead, talk calmly and firmly, and avoid eye contact. Try to stay still, or back away slowly until the dog is out of site. Do not turn and run.

What to do if you, or your child, is bitten.

  • If your own dog bites you, or a family member, confine it in a room away from people and call your veterinarian to make sure your dog’s vaccination records are up-to-date. Talk to your veterinarian about the incident, and discuss ways to prevent further biting in the future.
  • If someone else’s dog bites you, seek medical attention for your wound, first. Secondly, contact authorities and tell them everything you can about the dog: the owner’s name, if you know the dog, the color and size of the dog, and where/when you encountered the dog. These details may help animal-control authorities locate the dog, if they feel it is a threat to people.
Dogs are wonderful companions and can be a great addition to any family. However, whether it’s your dog, or someone else’s, and despite the breed of dog it is, accidents can happen. My parents never thought that Jenna would ever harm me, and she certainly didn’t mean to, but it was her way of acting in self-defense. It’s important for parents to be proactive in teaching kids the appropriate way to act around dogs, and what to do in case something does happen.