If you have young children at home, you may want to reconsider adopting a dog or allowing your child to visit the homes of friends or neighbors with pet dogs. According to a recent article in Reuters, a recent study determined that infants and toddlers make up a significant number of those treated for dog bites each year. And many of those children suffer dog bite injuries at their own homes or at the homes of people who are friends or acquaintances of their parents. In other words, even seemingly friendly dogs can pose serious risks to young children who do not yet know how to properly interact with a dog.
When you have slightly older children who are around the family dog or who are likely to come into contact with a neighborhood dog, it is possible to teach those kids the proper behavior for being around an animal. However, as the article underscores, toddlers simply are too young to be taught how to behave around dogs. As such, the onus is on the parents to understand dog safety and dog bite prevention, and to keep their young children away from dogs.
According to a senior author of the study, which was recently published in the journal Injury Prevention, dogs are important members of a family, but we should keep in mind that they can still cause injury to children. And even those seemingly family-friendly dogs can bite a young child without warning. Since approximately 37 percent of households in the U.S. have at least one dog, it is important for parents to be aware of the risks. Every year, about five million people sustain dog bite injuries, and about 2.5 million of those victims are children.
Are some children at greater risk of dog bite injury than others? According to the study, around 30 percent of all child dog bites affect kids who are aged 2 or younger. And in almost 84 percent of those cases, the dog bite occurred in the child’s home. Approximately 50 percent of those dog attacks involved injuries to the face. Given the young age and small size of children who are 2 years or younger, these injuries tend to be particularly severe. This is what the authors of the study want parents to know: even if you trust your dog implicitly, your toddler does not know how to behave around the dog, and the dog could bite your child.
As we mentioned, the authors of the study emphasize that dog bite prevention in toddlers—especially when those dog bite injuries occur at home—is a task that parents need to consider carefully. The authors of the study suggest “live dog training for parents,” particularly when their kids are under the age of 2. What does this kind of training involve? In live dog training sessions parents learn about dog behavior around kids and the importance of child supervision, even when the dog has a long history of good behavior.
What about when kids are older? An article in Parenting Magazine recommends teaching older kids the following to prevent dog bites:
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