Most dogs will never bite anyone. However, any dog may bite if it feels threatened. Children are the most common victims of dog bites. Infants and young children should never be left alone with a dog. It’s important to teach your children how to avoid being bitten.
Path to improved health
If you are considering adding a dog to your family, take time to learn about the breed of dog you want. To learn about dog breeds, talk with a veterinarian, read books about dogs, and search the internet. Don’t get a dog based solely on the way it looks.
If you have an infant or young child, think about getting a puppy. Be especially careful if you have a baby in your house. Aggressive dog breeds may not be right for families with children. Neutered male dogs are generally less aggressive.
Consider taking your new dog to obedience school. Keep your dog’s immunizations up to date. Have your dog checked regularly by a veterinarian.
If you have a dog at home, you can teach your child how to behave around dogs. This will prepare them for seeing dogs outside of your home.
What do I tell my children about dogs?
- Don’t go near strange dogs.
- Never bother a dog that is eating, sleeping, or caring for puppies.
- Tell an adult about any stray dogs.
- Always have an adult with you when you play with a dog.
- Never tease a dog.
- Never pet a dog without first letting it smell you.
What should I tell my children to do when a dog approaches them?
- Don’t run away and scream.
- Stand very still, like a tree, with your arms by your side and your hands cupped near your waist.
- Avoid making direct eye contact with the dog.
- When the dog understands that you are not a threat, it will probably walk away.
- If a dog bites you, tell an adult right away.
A dog is a wonderful addition to a family, but it can be a problem if you aren’t careful. Always talk to children about how they should act when they’re with a dog. Remember that dogs can feel threatened by new surroundings or strangers.
Things to consider
You should also teach your child what to do in case a dog does attack.
- Use your backpack, a jacket, or anything within reach to protect yourself from the dog.
- If the dog knocks you to the ground, curl up into a ball and place your hands over your neck and ears.
- Keep your hands in a fist to protect your fingers.
- Once the dog loses interest, slowly back away from it and get to a safe place. Do not make any sudden movements.
If your child is bitten by a dog, it is important to tell someone, even if your child has only minor injuries. You should notify the owner and consider contacting animal control. You may even want to contact the police to file a report, especially if you are not sure if the dog has been vaccinated against rabies.
If the dog is a stray or you cannot contact the owner, you should contact animal control and the police. They can help find the owner or pick up the dog to prevent it from attacking anyone else.
Be sure to wash your child’s wound using warm water and soap. Dress it with a clean bandage. Monitor it to ensure that it does not become infected.
When to see a doctor
A dog bite can put your child at risk for rabies, tetanus, or infection. This is true no matter how minor the bite. If it broke the skin, the risk is there.
When you cannot verify that the dog has been vaccinated against rabies, your child will most likely need to begin a rabies shot sequence. This will prevent the deadly disease. The shot sequence should be started as soon after the bite as possible.
If your child has not had a tetanus shot in the past five years, he or she will need to get one following a dog bite. If the bite from the dog is severe, you should see your doctor. It may require stitches or need other professional care.
Questions to ask your doctor
- Can you recommend a dog breed that does well with children?
- How old should my children be before I get a dog?
- What is the best way to introduce the new baby to the family dog?
- My older dog is suddenly being less tolerant of my children. Should I be worried?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.