Some studies have shown that nearly half of all dog attacks in the United States involve children under the age of 12. Children of ages 5 through 9 seem to have the highest rate of dog bite related injuries with the rate decreasing as they age. Nearly two thirds of the injuries to children 4 years old and younger are to the head and neck area. Dog bite incidents seem to increase during the summer months when dogs and people spend more time outdoors.
Educating young children about the precautions they need to take around dogs can help keep them safe. In my home town, our one and only Animal Control Officer goes into our schools, along with a local dog trainer, and gives presentations to children about how to care for, treat, and respect dogs and other pets. Because of this, our rate of animal abuse carried out by children has declined dramatically.
Children can relate to and need guidance in their relationship with animals. Most dog bites to children can be avoided by teaching the kids some simple rules:
- Never approach a strange dog without asking the owner if they can pet it.
- Never approach a dog chained or tied up to anything.
- Never look a strange dog in the eyes.
- Never tease or otherwise annoy any dog.
- Treat all dogs with respect, gentleness and caring.
- Never try to take a toy or treat away from a dog.
- Never approach a dog while it is eating.
Other precautionary steps for children and dogs safety parents can take are:
1. Teach your children to interpret body language of dogs. If you don’t know and understand dogs’ body language yourself, it would be wise to study up a little on it. Dogs communicate everything to us through their body language. It is very important to learn and understand the subtle signs of a dog that indicate stress, fear, happiness, patience, protection, submission, dominance, and calmness.
2. Never leave a young child alone with any dog, even a family dog you have trusted for years.
3. Do not allow any kind of animal abuse from tail pulling to more drastic situations. Animal abuse carried out by children can be a sign of deep-seated emotional problems that should be dealt with immediately. If not dealt with, this can lead to more aggressive abuse carried over to humans.
4. Teach your children to respect and humanely treat all animals. Teach them the importance of passing this on to their friends.
5. Tell your children if they ever see anyone hurting an animal they are to tell an adult whom they trust. It is not okay to hurt any animal in any situation.
Dog owners should also be held responsible for their dogs’ actions. If they acquire the dog as a puppy, they should socialize it with all kinds of people young and old, people with hats, short and tall, and other dogs. Also, every dog should be trained either professionally or by the owner if they have dog training experience. Dogs should not be kept tied up and should always be on leash or under absolute control while in public. They should never be allowed to wander free on their own.
If you acquire an older dog from a rescue organization, it is even more important to get appropriate positive training, since most dogs are taken to a shelter because of behavioral problems. If your dog shows aggressive behavior, don’t wait until it advances to the point of someone getting hurt. Seek out professional training at the first sign.
Children should never be victims of dog bites. If parents, dog owners, and children themselves could learn and practice these simple rules, there would be no need to consider banning breeds. Children would grow up to promote the humane and healthy treatment and respect of the animals God has given us for our companionship and unconditional love.