Preventing Dog Bites

05.20.2013 |


This week is National Dog Bite Prevention Week (May 19-25). Barbara Sherman, a veterinary behaviorist at NC State University, has some tips to help parents and children avoid getting bitten.

More than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the U.S. with some 800,000 receiving medical treatment. Children, ages 5 to9, are the most common bite victims and are far more likely to be severely injured with bites to the face and head.

“Simple information and education can dramatically reduce what is a public health issue and keep children out of the emergency room,” Sherman says.

According to Sherman, the most common way that many children (and adults) approach dogs – with face-to-face contact followed by reaching over their heads to pet them – can result in bites. This is because many dogs consider these approaches to be threats and may respond with “keep back” bites to hand or face.

Three simple rules can help people and dogs avoid this miscommunication:

  • Children should always ask owners if it is okay to pet the dog;
  • The dog should be petted on the back from collar to tail, never on the head;
  • Leave dogs that are eating, sleeping or caring for puppies alone.

Additional basic child safety around dogs:

  • Do not approach an unfamiliar dog.
  • Do not run from a dog and scream.
  • Remain motionless (“be still like a tree”) when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
  • If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and lie still (“be still like a log”).
  • Do not play with a dog unless supervised by an adult.
  • Do not disturb a dog when it is in a car, behind a fence or tied up.

Parents: Never leave babies or small children alone with any dog, even the gentle family pet. If you have small children, make a safe place for your dog that is “out of reach” of the children.

For more information:

NC State’s College of Veterinary Medicine and the Wake County Department of Public Health have developed a bilingual coloring book that teaches children of all ages how to safely interact with dogs. The book may be downloaded here.

NC State Behavioral Medicine Service


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