Dogs can be so darn cute, but it’s important to remember—and to remind your kids—that any dog can bite.
Dog bites affect people of all ages and populations, and they can occur at any time. To minimize the risks of dog bites, children, families and communities must practice safe dog interactions and responsible dog ownership every day.
Facts About Dog Bites and Dog Bite Victims
Dog bites are a bigger problem than most people realize. More than 4.5 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs every year, and there are over 900 visits to emergency departments for dog bite injuries each day. Our Cincinnati Children’s Emergency Department cares for more than 300 child dog bite victims each year.
Children represent a large number of dog bite victims. Injuries range from minor cuts and scrapes to severe or fatal wounds.
Of all children, those ages 5-9 years have the highest risk of dog bites. Bites to this age group tend to be from a known dog (such as a friend’s or neighbor’s dog) and often happen when the dog is protecting its property like toys, food or puppies.
Infants and younger children have the highest risk of more severe or fatal dog bites, as the bites they get often occur to the head or neck. These bites often happen in their own home by the family dog or another visiting dog when there is limited adult supervision.
It is important to remember that all dogs can and may bite given the right circumstances, regardless of the breed.
Risk of a dog bite increases if the dog is eating, caring for puppies, scared or nervous, chained or contained behind a fence. Dogs are also more likely to bite when they are ill, excited, scared or surprised, such as being suddenly woken from sleep or disturbed while eating or chewing on a bone. As the number of dogs in a house increases, so does the chance of having a dog bite.
Tips to Help Prevent Dog Bites
There are specific things you can do to prevent dog bites. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention promote these simple recommendations:
- Always supervise an infant or child who is near a dog.
- Teach children and practice how to be safe around dogs:
- Do not disturb a dog that is caring for puppies, eating or sleeping.
- Do not reach through or over a fence to pet a dog.
- Do not run to or past a dog.
- Do not bark or growl at a dog.
- Do not approach any unfamiliar dog.
- Always ask permission from a dog’s owner before petting a dog.
- Before petting a dog, always let the dog sniff your hand.
- Be a responsible dog owner:
- Consult with your veterinarian before getting a dog to determine what type of dog will best fit your household.
- Keep your dog healthy and up to date with vaccinations.
- Socialize and train your dog.
- Spay or neuter your dog.
- Do not chain your dog.
- Be alert for signs of dog aggression and seek professional advice from a veterinarian if it is noticed.
- If an unfamiliar dog approaches you or your children:
- Stand still with your arms to the side and act “like a tree.”
- Do not run from the dog, scream, or look it directly in the eye.
- If the dog knocks you over, roll into a ball, cover your head and neck with your hands, and be still.
Dogs are wonderful and very much a part of many American families, but we must never forget that they are animals and they can be unpredictable. Please be aware of the risks associated with dog bites, teach your children safe interactions, and always practice responsible dog ownership.