Dog bites and children
- 50% of dog attacks involved children under 12 years old
- 70% of dog-bite fatalities occurred among children under 10 years old
- Bite rates are dramatically higher among children who are 5 to 9 years old
- 65% of bites among children occur to the head and neck
- Boys under the age of 15 years old are bitten more often than girls of the same age
Statistics provided by the American Humane Association TM.
Why start an article with that kind of terrifying information? To ensure that the subject of teaching children to be safe around dogs is taken seriously. It is a national problem and is present in every neighborhood in our country.
It is imperative that we teach our children how to be respectful and kind to dogs and also how to minimize the likelihood of being bitten. Most children who receive bites are bitten by dogs that they know: a neighbor’s dog, a friend’s dog, a family member’s dog, even their OWN dog. What does this tell me? This tells me that children (and dogs) are not supervised well enough by the adults in their lives and that dogs are expected to tolerate any amount of abuse a child can dish out without reacting “badly” to it. This is a preposterous notion. I can say that as a mother of three children under age 10 (including 6-year-old twin boys). I KNOW how rude my kids can be to dogs and it’s MY job as a parent to make sure that the dogs don’t have to suffer and that the kids don’t ignore the warnings the dogs give them BEFORE a bite happens! Dogs give TONS of warning before they bite! They shallow their breathing, turn away, lick lips, yawn, freeze, get “wide-eyed”, growl, lift lips AND snap (deliberately miss) BEFORE they bite. They warn us with SO much body language and vocalizations and we STILL ignore them (or punish them for warning us “Bad dog! Don’t you growl at Junior!”- who thought THAT was a good idea??) and get bitten! We MUST teach our kids how to interact APPROPRIATELY with dogs in order to help prevent bites! Dr. Sophia Yin developed and published this wonderful poster on how to greet a dog appropriately. I give it to every family I work with and I talk to the kids about how to make sure they treat their dog (and other dogs) politely and with respect. Please click on the following link to view the pdf.
The third week of May is National Dog Bite Prevention Week and many schools all over the country give presentations on dog safety during this time. I had the privilege of getting an early start with the 8th grade class at Remington Traditional School last week.
My dog, Andre, and I gave a presentation on responsible pet ownership and dog safety. The kids were amazingly attentive, responsive and engaged. I asked the group of about thirty 14-year olds how many of them had been bitten by a dog and over half raised their hands. I said, “This is why Andre and I want to talk to you and other kids like you – to prevent so many kids from being bitten.” We had a wonderful time and I think the kids learned a lot. This was Andre’s first presentation at a school and he did extremely well too. We have been invited back for future presentations for different events and classrooms and we are so thrilled with that opportunity.
Please supervise your kids and your dogs and make sure you teach your kids how to be respectful of a dog’s space, aware of a dog’s body language and IF a dog gives a warning then leave the dog alone – DON’T yell, scold, hit, smack or kick the dog. When you punish away all a dog’s warnings, guess what happens…the dog bites without warning.
Here is another poster by Dr. Yin that illustrates very clearly what a fearful dog looks like.
All of these body signals are warning signs to us (and other dogs) that this dog is uncomfortable and should be left alone. You can also read my blog post “What Is Your Dog Telling You?” Please respect your dog’s communication and teach your kids to do the same!