Research has show that at least 75% of dog bites are from the family dog or a friend's dog and that children are 3 times more likely than adults to be the victim of a dog bite. In addition, dog bites are the second most frequent cause of emergency room visits when compared to the 9 most common reasons for ER visits in children. These are scary statistics! The good news is that most dog bites are actually preventable with just a few simple steps!
The most important thing, which we cannot emphasize enough, is teaching kids when to leave dogs alone. You will see this mentioned over and over on this website because we think it's so important! It doesn't matter how friendly or sweet the puppy is, kids need to be in the habit of respecting dogs' space. Young children don't always generalize well. If your toddler routinely hangs around while your dog is eating and your dog doesn't mind, that doesn't mean that your friend's dog won't mind when you are visiting! These are essential skills to teach young children, whether you have a dog or not.
Children should leave dogs alone when:
They are eating
They are sleeping
They are playing with a toy and did not invite the child to play
They steal something that belongs to a child -- parents should be the ones to get it back!
Dogs should leave children alone when:
They are playing running games like tag that will rile the dog up
They are eating
They are in their own space where the dog is not invited
Dogs don't like hugs and kisses!
If there is one thing that children should all know that would greatly reduce dog bites it's that dogs don't like hugs and kisses! They do not like to be confined by being used for a pillow, they do not like having children in their faces, and do not like to be squeezed and poked. Check out the "Just for Kids" page for more information on how dogs DO like to be petted!
Dog Body Language
Sometimes you will hear that the dog just "snapped" and bit a child. This is actually pretty unlikely. Dogs give people lots of signs with their eyes, their face, and their body to tell us when they are uncomfortable. The problem is, most people don't know how to read these signs. Once you do, you are equipped to teach your child how to respect dogs and prevent dog bites!
Dogs tell in a very clear way with their entire body what they are feeling! Check out our page on dog body language to learn what your dog is saying!
Teaching Kids How to Interact with Dogs
Check out this diagram for some ideas on how to teach kids to interact with dogs!