According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) more than 4,000,000 Americans are bitten each year by dogs, resulting in more than 900,000 injuries requiring medical treatment – 350,000 of which are serious enough to require a visit to the emergency room. Half of these injuries are children, with the highest concentration of bites occurring in those aged 5 to 9 years. Unfortunately, almost 66% of injuries for children younger than 4 years old occur on the head or neck. Interestingly, children dog bite victims are much more likely to be boys.
Dog bites are preventable, and it is important to understand how they happen and the actions we can take together to reduce the incidence of dog bites and attacks in communities across the United States. Adults and children alike can learn more about dog ownership, and what can be done to prevent attacks from happening.
Facts to Consider Before Purchasing or Adopting a Dog
The State you live in has laws that regulate the responsibilities of dog owners, as well as designations of what constitutes a vicious or dangerous breed. Many states hold dog owners “strictly liable” for the behavior of their pets, and this makes them financially responsible for any harm that comes to others as a result of a dog bite or attack. It is possible to reduce the risk associated with dog ownership. Some options to consider include:
- Consulting with a local veterinarian, breeder, dog trainer or animal behaviorist to discuss which breed(s) might be best for your home and family situation.
- Homes with children may want to avoid aggressive breeds identified by local authorities as dangerous or potentially vicious including purebred or mixed breeds of pit bulls, rottweilers, huskies or german shepards.
- Discuss aspects of dog ownership with children before bringing them into the household. Consider taking a local class on feeding and caring for a dog or pet.
- Never leave babies, toddlers or young children alone with any dog, regardless of breed or temperament.
- Spend time in your home with any individual dog or puppy before buying or adopting it. Having your dog spayed or neutered significantly reduces aggressive tendencies in most breeds.
- Do not wrestle or play aggressive games with your dog.
- Properly train any dog entering the household. Spend time socializing with your pet and other dogs, such as in obedience classes or even at a dog park. Teach the dog submissive behaviors (e.g., rolling over to expose abdomen and relinquishing food without growling).
- Immediately seek advice from your veterinarian or other animal training professional if the dog develops aggressive or undesirable behaviors.
Steps to Prevent Dog Bites
Teach children basic safety around dogs and review regularly:
- Do not approach an unfamiliar dog.
- Do not run from a dog and scream.
- Remain motionless (e.g., “be still like a tree”) when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
- If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and lie still (e.g., “be still like a log”).
- Do not play with a dog unless supervised by an adult.
- Immediately report stray dogs or dogs displaying unusual behavior to an adult.
- Avoid direct eye contact with a dog.
- Do not disturb a dog who is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
- Do not pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.
- If bitten, immediately report the bite to an adult.