Dog bites: A comprehensive guide to keeping children safe

Dogs offer companionship, loyalty, and love. For those reasons and more, they have earned the nickname “man’s best friend.”  At the same time we cannot turn a blind eye to the reality that dogs, regardless of breed or temperament, have the potential to bite, especially when they feel threatened, scared, or provoked.

Baby with small dog

Dog bite statistics

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 5 million dog bites occur in the United States each year, with children being the most vulnerable group.
  • Over 70 percent of dog bites in children under 4 years of age were sustained in the head or neck region, likely due to their height.
  • On average, roughly 30 to 50 people die from dog bites each year in the United States, according to the National Library of Medicine.
  • Over 800,000 bites per year require medical attention.
  • In addition to physical injury, those bitten by a dog are also at risk of contracting the following illnesses:
    • Cellulitis
    • Meningitis
    • Rabies
    • Lymphangitis
    • Endocarditis
    • Tetanus

In this blog post, we’ll explore effective strategies and precautions to prevent dog bites and ensure the safety of children.

Boy riding his bike with dog

Understanding dog behavior

Understanding dog behavior is crucial for preventing bites. Dogs communicate through body language, and recognizing signs of stress or discomfort can help avoid dangerous situations. Common signs of a dog feeling uncomfortable include:

  • Rapid tail-wagging or “flagging”
  • Leaning forward
  • Lowered head or neck
  • Moving to an elevated position or “seeking height”
  • Hard stare
  • “Freezing”/ stiff body posture
  • Facial expressions like baring teeth
  • Barking, growling, or snarling
  • Raised “hackles” (fur along the back)
  • Avoidance or attempts to escape

It’s essential to teach children to respect a dog’s boundaries and recognize these warning signs. These are signals from the dog that you should increase distance and give the dog some space. Recognizing these warning signs can save a child from being bitten.

Supervision and education

In order for children and dogs to build relationships and wonderful lifelong memories with one another, it’s essential to provide adult supervision and education during those interactions. Parents and caregivers should always make it clear to children that dogs can bite, and that they need to respect dogs in order ensure positive interactions.

Parental supervision is even necessary with “easy going” breeds. Educating children about safe behavior around dogs is crucial. Teach them to:

  • Always ask permission before petting a dog.
  • Approach dogs calmly and quietly and ideally from the side.
  • Hold out a hand and allow dogs to sniff their hand before attempting to pet them.
  • Learn to read canine body language.
  • Don’t pet a dog on the top of the head – rather, pat on the upper half of the back or near the neck and chest.
  • Avoid holding down, startling, or cornering dogs.
  • Never disturb dogs while they are eating, sleeping, or caring for puppies.
  • Avoid hugging or climbing on dogs.

Teaching children respect for all animals, including but not limited to dogs, is key to building compassion and ultimately, preventing harm.

two kids petting a tired dog

Choosing the right dog

Because more than half of dog bite injuries occur at home with pets that are familiar, it’s key that you select a dog for your family who has a temperament, size, and energy level that suits the needs your family. This is especially true if there are children in your household. A canine’s breed can play a role in your pet’s behavior, but it is equally important to evaluate individual personalities. If you are selecting a dog that is not a puppy, it’s best to get a grasp of the dog’s training, breeding, socialization, management, genes, and environment before letting the dog into your home.

When adopting or purchasing a dog, consider:

  • Temperament: Research dog breeds and consider types that are known for friendliness and adaptability. When visiting the animal shelter, talk to staff for insights on dogs you are considering, and look for dogs who display a calm, gentle demeanor with children.
  • Size: Choose a dog that is an appropriate size for your family and living space. Large breeds may unintentionally knock over small children during play.
  • Energy Level: Match the dog’s energy level to your family’s lifestyle. High-energy breeds may require more exercise and stimulation to prevent boredom and potential behavioral issues.
  • Time commitments: Training and socialization are crucial components of responsible dog ownership, and these efforts take time. Be sure you have the time to commit obedience classes or proper socialization for your dog. Investing time in these activities from a young age can help prevent fear, anxiety, and aggressive behavior later on.

Selecting a dog for your family that can thrive in your living space, mirror the activity level of your specific family, require the time your family has to devote to it, and display the personality traits that will work best with the members of your household will ensure a low-stress, lifelong meaningful bond with your pet.

child sleeping with small dog

Making your house a home for your dog:

Creating a calm and safe environment at home is essential for preventing dog bites. Here are some tips to ensure your home provides a secure environment for all, dogs included!

  • Provide a special area for your dog to retreat to anytime they need time alone.
  • Keep food and toys out of reach of young children to prevent resource-guarding behavior.
  • Supervise interactions between children and dogs at all times.

Preventing dog bites requires a combination of:

  • Understanding dog behavior
  • Appropriate supervision
  • Education
  • Choosing the right dog
  • Responsible pet ownership.

There is no doubt that dogs are adorable, loyal companions that can enrich our lives. However, we must remain vigilant in order to prevent potential conflicts.

If you or a loved one has been bitten by a dog and wish to discuss a potential case, contact the personal injury law firm of Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen. Our lawyers have experience helping clients with dog bites and can help navigate the legalities of your case while you focus on healing.

For a free case evaluation, call us today, at 866-388-1307 today.