Avoiding Dog Bites in Children
Risks of Dog Bites
According to a 1994 study by Mathews and Lattal approximately one million dog bites occur every year in the United States – according to the study 60-70% of those involve children, boys are bitten more often than girls and a third of the dogs that attack children are owned by the family.
A study by Beck done in 1975 indicated that 87% of biting dogs are intact males and most dogs bites occur in or near the victims home. Another study by Sacks in 1989 indicated that 70% of the children that were killed by dogs were under the age of 10 and 22% were under the age of one year with 7% being sleeping infants.
What Parents Need to Teach Their Children
- NEVER disturb any dog who is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
- NEVER pet a dog, even your own, without letting him see and sniff you first.
- Children must always ASK PERMISSION from the owner and their parents BEFORE petting any dog. I never allowed my children near strange dogs much less pet them.
- If the owner cannot control the dog and have it SIT nicely for the child to pet, WALK AWAY.
- NEVER approach a dog who is confined behind a fence, within a car, or on a chain.
- DONT TEASE any dog by poking at them through fences or car windows or reaching your arm through to pet them
- Under no condition approach a strange dog you don’t know or a dog who is not with his owner.
- NEVER RUN away from a dog that is chasing you. STOP, STAND STILL, REMAIN CALM, ARMS AT YOUR SIDES, be quiet and DO NOT SCREAM. Walk away SLOWLY FACING THE DOG BUT NOT STARING AT its eyes.
- If a dog attacks, “feed” him your jacket, a school book, a bicycle, or anything else that you can get between you and the dog.
- If you are attacked, STOP, CURL UP IN A BALL LIKE A TURTLE, COVER YOUR HEAD WITH YOUR ARMS AND HANDS.
- Do not chase after dogs.
- Do not scream and be loud around dog.
- Children should not stare into the eyes of a dog.
- If a dog starts to circle you – turn with it, don’t let it get behind you.
- If the dog shows aggressive behavior (I.e. barking or growling) put something between you and the dog – like a a chair.
- Just because a dog wags its tail does not mean its friendly.
- Always ask the owner of a dog if it is OK to pet their dog.
- If you are in the area of a stray dog – leave that area
- If a dog approaches you remain calm and motionless. Keep your hands at your side. Speak with a soothing voice.
- If a dog is injured do not touch or try and help it. Go get an adult
What To Do Around an Aggressive Dog
If a dog growls or acts aggressive towards you or your children. Do not scream or turn and run. This can trigger the dogs “PREY DRIVE.” When that happens the dog is going to chase you down and often bite. This very same dog may have ignored the person or child had they stood still and faced toward them but not stare at them. Many times the most the dog would have done was sniff the child and leave.
The best advice is to slowly turn sideways to the dog and divert your eyes from his. Stand quietly and keep the arms down by your side. Dogs do not naturally give direct eye contact for any length of time. The only time they get or give eye contact is just before they attack, or just before they flee. So if you have a dominant dog getting direct eye contact from a child, the dog interprets the eye contact as prey that is about to run. That may be enough to trigger an attack.
Children may instinctively want to quickly raise their arms so they will not get bit. Quickly raising the arms can also trigger prey drive. It also exposes the chest area to a bite. A chest or upper back bite can be much more serious than an arm bite. Many people think that you need to turn and run to trigger prey. This is not so. Any quick movement (no matter how small) can trigger a dog’s prey drive. If a dog has only been partially trained in protection work, a quick move of the arms will trigger prey.
If the dog does just sniffs the child and walk away, the child should remain stationary for a few seconds and then gradually back away from the dog. They should not turn their back and walk (or run) away.
What To Do In a Dog Attack
In the worst case scenario the dog will charge in for a bite. If this happens, the child should fall to the ground and curl up in a fetal position with their arms over their head. The dog is going to read this as a submissive posture. He may not even bite at that point. He may accept the submission and after standing over the child for a few seconds walk away.
Now here is the really difficult part for parents. Should you look outside when the kids are screaming and see a strange dog standing over the top of a child on the ground. You do not want to run out screaming your head off. This may also trigger an attack.
God forbid that dog should attack a child on the ground. The best defense is still to remain tucked up in a ball. Many times a dog will take one nip and leave. As alarming as this sounds, and as horrible as it may seem, this action is going to cause less damage than being dragged down as the child tries to run away. Dropping to the ground and acting submissive may be enough to satisfy a dominant dog that just wants to show his superiority over this child.
It’s a misconception that parents only need to worry about the big Rottweiler or German Shepherd next door. I have seen some very, very nasty small dogs. I have been doing helper work and training dogs in protection work for 20 years and my worst dog bite came from my mother’s toy poodle. It only bit me once.
Eliminating Dog Bites Through Training
Eliminating dog bites begins with proper management of the pet by the owner. It’s the owner’s responsibility to make sure that his dog is properly obedience trained and properly contained. Proper management is the first step in eliminating dog bites.
Proper management also means the dog owner has complete control over the dog in every environment he chooses to allow his dog to be in. That is either accomplished with a dog leash or the dog is 100% obedience trained and 100% under the control of the owner. It also may mean using a dog crate or dog kennel or a dog safe yard.
Obedience training is the second step at reducing aggression/dominance levels in all dogs. Obedience training is not the only solution to eliminating aggression but it is an integral part.
If you see your dog growling and giving direct eye contact when you or your children take a toy away, it’s time to become proactive. That dog should never have toys again. Not ever. Dogs don’t need toys.
If a dog is a sharp dog by nature, the owner must take additional precautions on this dog’s containment system. It needs to be in a very secure and escape proof living environment (i.e. a dog kennel or crate that he can not get out of).
If you see your dog charging up and down the fence line in your back yard barking aggressively at the kids across the street or next door, then you have a potential problem. Do not look at this situation as a case of the kids teasing the dog. In most cases it’s the dog becoming territorial and challenging the kids.
Dogs and Babies – Avoiding Dogs Attacking Babies
There is a protocol for dealing with dogs and newborn babies. Never leave a child unattended with a dog. Not even for 5 seconds. In addition the dog should never be allowed in the babies room. If you don’t own a dog crate it’s time to buy one.
When parents bring a new born baby home from the hospital they should NOT ALLOW the dog to come and smell the baby or lick the baby.
Your goal is to teach the dog that the baby is YOUR BABY and has NOTHING to do with the dog. The dog needs to learn that the baby is a higher ranking member of the family pack and that you (as the pack leader) enforce the babies rank. This is no different than a mother wolf who does not allow other pack members near her newborn pups.
The way to set this training up is to take items that have the babies smell on them; baby cloths, baby sheets, dirty diapers etc. Lay them in your living area where the dog is allowed to be.
Do not leave these baby items laying around when you are out of the room. Treat them just like you treat your baby. The dog and these items are never together – not for a long, long time. Look at it like this. If you can’t control the dog staying away from these articles of clothing then you can’t control the dog staying away from your baby