Believe it or not, there are over 4.5 million dog attacks every year in the United States. Most of them are against children. Fido makes a wonderful family pet, but he is also a potentially dangerous animal living in your home.
Dog Safety Tips for Parents
- Try not to leave your child unsupervised with any dog for any amount of time. Dogs should be treated as potentially dangerous animals, and should be supervised around children.
- Spay or neuter your dogs. Dogs who have not been spayed or neutered are three times more likely to bite than dogs who have been.
- The most dangerous types of dogs for children are German Shepherds, Rottweillers and Pit Bulls. If you have any of these dogs, do not allow your children to play unsupervised around them. Read more about this on our most dangerous dogs for kids page.
- Remember, in almost every fatal dog attack on a child, the same words are uttered: “He’s never showed any signs of aggression or bitten before….they got along great together….she loved that dog….” Every dog mauling we come across has some version of these sentiments.
- When choosing a dog for a pet, pick a child-friendly dog breed that is good with kids.
- Consider the use of a professional dog trainer for your pet, especially if your dog shows any signs of nipping at other people or other unruly behavior.
- When going out on walks, bring along a few extra doggie treats, even if you don’t have a dog. If you encounter an aggressive dog or one that makes you nervous, tossing a treat a safe distance away is usually enough to make them forget all about you.
Dog Safety Rules for Kids
- Teach children that the only time you can pet a strange dog is if the owner is right there and they say it is OK to pet them. Never pet a strange dog without an adult around.
- Always let a dog clearly see you and sniff you before petting it. Offer the back side of your hand down low and away from the dog. Let the dog come to you to smell you.
- Never go near dogs that are fighting or dogs that seem hurt or sick. If you’re ever around a dog that is growling, showing it’s teeth, pulling back its ears, or barking at you fiercely, back away immediately…but don’t turn and run.
- Teach your children ‘play nice’ rules for playing with dogs. Such as…
- Don’t put your face near the dog’s face.
- Don’t tease a dog by holding food up for him and then yanking it away.
- Don’t yank or pull on a dog’s ears or tail.
- Never give dogs hugs around their necks. Dogs often perceive this as aggression.
- Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t want to be done to you.
- If a dog runs up to you or scares you, you need to “be like a tree,” standing still with your arms down by your side. Stay completely still, and do not look at the dog’s eyes. Never run away or scream. That may make the dog instinctively chase you.
What to do if a Child is Attacked
- If you’re around when a dog is attacking a child, trying to yank it off usually isn’t the best approach. This may just make the dog feel more threatened and cause him to clamp down harder. Plus, “If a dog is on a child and you’re pulling it off, you’re making the wound on that child deeper,” says Victoria Stilwell, host of Animal Planet’s It’s Me Or the Dog. (Chen, 2013) Instead, parents should take a coat, blanket, or t-shirt and cover the dog’s head. When dogs can’t see, their reflex is typically to open the mouth and release, allowing you to pull the child away.
- Tell your children that if they ever get attacked by a dog or any other animal, they should go to the fetal position by pressing their chin to their neck to protect their throat, falling to the ground, folding their legs up over their chest, tucking their head down into their chest, and covering their arms up over their face. After that, stay still!
- If a dog attacks you and he has a hold of your jacket or coat, let him have it so that he can wrestle with it instead of you. You can also use backpacks or other things to shield his bites away from you.
Dog Safety Resources for Kids:
* Read your child our printable dog safety book What Doggies Do.