Dogs may be man's best friend, but they're not always friendly to children.
Whether it's your own or a stranger's pet, your child should be taught how to approach a dog or deal with one that appears threatening. It's best if kids avoid dogs they don't know and remember not to chase, tease, or pull the tail of a dog they do know.
You can prevent your own dog from biting a child—yours or someone else's—by training and socializing it to be comfortable around people, having it spayed or neutered, and keeping it on a leash or in a fenced yard when it's not inside your house. For more information, check out the Humane Society Web site at www.nodogbites.org.
The Humane Society of the United States offers these additional tips for children:
- Ask permission before petting someone else's dog (or cat). If the owner says it's okay, let the dog smell the back of your hand before you touch him.
- If a dog approaches you, stand still and quiet with your hands at your sides so you don't appear threatening. Avoid eye contact.
- Don't run if a dog tries to chase you. His instinct is to chase and catch someone or something. If you stop, he'll likely sniff you and leave you alone.
- Don't pet or approach a dog or cat while it's eating, sleeping, chewing on a toy, or guarding something. Dogs are especially protective of their owners, owners' children, and property such as houses and yards.
- Don't approach an injured animal. Instead, tell an adult.
Wild animals also are a threat to children. See Camping Cautions for more on creatures that might be encountered in the wild.
Tales from the Safety Zone
An estimated 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, and most of them are children. More than half the children over age 12 report that they have been bitten by dogs. More bites happen in summer, when kids and dogs spend more time outdoors.
If Someone Gets Bitten
If a dog bites your child (or anyone, for that matter), immediately wash the wound well with soap and water and contact your doctor. Also, report the incident to the local animal control agency, especially if the dog's a stray, so it can be captured and observed for 10 days to determine whether it's healthy or if your child will need shots to prevent rabies.