National Dog Bite Prevention Week kicks off Saturday with the disturbing news that half of all dog bite victims are children.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the 4.7 million Americans bitten by dogs annually more than half are children.
(Photo: Kyle Harris, owner of Kyle’s Custom Critter Care in Canyon Country with Kara.)
“First of all, kids carry themselves differently than adults,” said Kyle Harris, owner of Kyle’s Custom Critter Care in Canyon Country. “In their excitement, they’re squealing and they’re running, and waving their hands. They can create kind of overexcitement in dogs.”
Harris, with over 10 years of experience volunteering at the Castaic Animal Shelter, says that behavior can sometimes trigger a dog’s prey instinct.
“They have a prey drive from long ago out in the wild. And squealing and running. What do you think that means to a dog? Prey. Even though they’re domesticated it’s something that’s instinctual,” said Harris.
Harris says parents need to do a better job of teaching their children how to approach strange animals, even if they’re on a leash. The first step is to ask the owner permission to pet the dog. Then, despite the child’s excitement they should never hug a dog.
“Dogs don’t like hugs. People like hugs. Dogs like petting. Not the big hug around the neck. They’ll tolerate. A lot of them are wonderful. They tolerate. But, no they don’t like restraint like that,” said Harris.
Harris says young children must also be taught how to pet a dog nicely.
“They’ll take their hand and pat, pat, pat. Y’know hard? Rather than softly, smoothly,” said Harris.
Harris who fosters dogs that are not yet socialized advises children to pet the dog from the back, near the tail, and then move towards the head.
“It’s just easier on the dog psychologically. They don’t know that person. Put yourself in their paws as it were. They’re like, who is this person? Can I trust them?” said Harris.
Harris says parents and adults shouldn’t necessarily believe and owner who says their dogs never bite.
“You can never say that. I think you need to supervise and educate the kids to be a hundred percent safe,” said Harris.
To contact Harris regarding pet services click here.
The American Veterinary Medical Association has put together the Blue Dog Parent Guide and CD targeted and tested for children from 3 to 6 years old as part of a comprehensive dog bite prevention program. To learn more about the guide, click here.
The National Dog Bite Prevention Week partners offer the following tips:
- Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
- Don’t run past a dog. The dog’s natural instinct is to chase and catch you.
- If a dog threatens you, don’t scream. Avoid eye contact. Try to remain motionless until the dog leaves, then back away slowly until the dog is out of sight.
- Never approach a strange dog, especially one that’s tethered or confined.
- Don’t disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating or caring for puppies.
- Anyone wanting to pet a dog should first obtain permission from the owner.
- Always let a dog see and sniff you before petting the animal.
- If you believe a dog is about to attack you, try to place something between yourself and the dog, such as a backpack or a bicycle.
- If you are knocked down by a dog, curl into a ball and protect your face with your hands.
Be a Responsible Dog Owner
- Obedience training can teach a dog to behave properly and help owners control their dogs.
- When letter carriers and others who are not familiar with your dog come to your home, keep your dog inside, in another room away from the door.
- In protecting their territory, dogs may interpret people’s actions as a threat.
- Spay or neuter your dog. Neutered dogs are less likely to roam.
- Dogs that receive little attention or handling, or are left tied up for long periods of time, frequently turn into biters.
- Rinse the bite area with soapy water.
- Elevate limb(s) that have been bitten.
- Apply antiseptic lotion or cream. Watch the area for signs of infection for several days after the incident.
- For deeper bites or puncture wounds, apply pressure with a clean bandage or towel to stop the bleeding. Then wash the wound, dry it and cover with a sterile dressing. Don’t use tape or butterfly bandages to close the wound.
- It’s a good idea to call your child’s physician because a bite could require antibiotics or a tetanus shot. The doctor also can help you to report the incident.
- If your child is bitten severely, call 9-1-1 or go to the emergency room.
- When going to the emergency room, advise the personnel of:
- your tetanus vaccination status;
- vaccine status of the dog;
- who the dog owner is; and,
- if the dog has bitten before.
Advice from the Experts:
American Academy of Pediatricians
“Parents, please don’t ever leave a young child unsupervised around any dog, even a dog well-known to your family,” said AAP President Dr. Robert Block. “Even very young children should be taught not to tease or hurt animals. And with school almost over for the year, children will be spending more time in parks, at friends’ homes, and other places where they may encounter dogs. They need to know what to do to minimize the risk of being bitten.”
American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery
“Most children love dogs and like to put their face up close to the dog’s face. Parents should never permit this,” said Dr. Michael Neumeister, president of the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery. “Even the friendliest dog may bite when startled or surprised. Be cautious, once a child is scarred they are scarred for life. We hear this line all the time ‘The dog has never bitten anyone before.’ A dog’s reaction to being surprised or angered is not predictable.”