This week is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, which is a great topic to kick off our new blog!
Did you know?
“Among children, the rate of dog bite–related injuries is highest for those ages 5 to 9 years, and children are more likely than adults to receive medical attention for dog bites.” (http://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Dog-Bites/biteprevention.html)
“Most dog bites affecting young children occur during everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs.” (http://www.avma.org/public_health/dogbite/default.asp)
“But,” you say, “Fido would never hurt Jimmy. He’s a (Labrador/Golden/other “family dog” breed)! Those bites are from those big scary breeds. We have nothing to worry about with Fido.”
I don’t mean to say that your family dog is actually Cujo in disguise, but remember – all dogs have teeth, and all dogs bite, including Retrievers and toy breeds! The difference is only in how much they will tolerate before they feel the need to, and that varies with every individual dog, regardless of breed. Why put your dog in that position? Why put your children at risk? How about following these simple guidelines to make your children safer … and Fido happier!
- Never (ever, ever) leave children alone with a dog unsupervised. I mean it! It only takes one accident to end in tragedy. Do you really trust an animal to babysit?
- Teach children to respect the dog’s space. Children should know not to bother the dog while she is eating, sleeping, on her bed or in her crate, or chewing on a bone.
- Give the dog his own space where he won’t be bothered, and teach children to leave him be. This can be a crate, or just a dog bed where he can chew on toys in peace.
- Along those same lines, make sure dogs get breaks from the kids, especially older dogs and young puppies. Give them alone time throughout the day, so they don’t get overwhelmed or over stimulated.
- Learn to read your dog’s signals and know when she’s uncomfortable or distressed. Look at the whole dog – the eyes, the facial expression, the tail. Is the tail tucked? Is the body stiff? Can you see the whites of her eyes? Does she look nervous? All these things mean “Please stop that.” Remember, your dog can’t speak to you – body language is the only way she can communicate. All interactions with your child should be happy and relaxed – not stressful. Make sure you can recognize these signs and intervene when you see them. The dog should enjoy every interaction – not just tolerate them. Here’s a great downloadable dog body language poster you can use to show kids the warning signs of a stressed or scared dog: http://info.drsophiayin.com/free-poster-on-body-language-in-dogs/
- Your own dog is not the only dog your child will encounter in his or her life. Teach children that even though Fido may love being hung on and wrestled with, not all dogs are the same. Children should know to always ask the owner before petting an unfamiliar dog. They should also practice the appropriate way to interact with new dogs – pet them on their chest or neck, don’t reach over their head, don’t stare into their face, and don’t chase them if they back away. Be especially vigilant when your child is interacting with a new dog, even if the owner claims they are good with kids!
- Regularly check your dog for ear infections, limps, or other pain, as a dog in pain is much more likely to bite.
- Contact a professional trainer if you are ever uncertain or concerned about your child and dog. Make sure you look for a trainer who uses pain-free, force-free techniques, as pain and intimidation can backfire and cause a dog to become more aggressive out of fear.
Any other tips or suggestions? Leave a comment and let us know!
(Photo credit: Tina Phillips)