Statistics show that roughly half of reported U.S. dog bites each year involve children. In order to prevent dog bites in children, it's important for families to understand why dogs bite children. Additionally, families teach their children to practice safe habits and behaviors around dogs, especially those that are unfamiliar.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated half of the 4.5 million dog bites each year involve children. Specifically, children between ages five and nine are significantly more likely to receive medical attention from dog bites. Parents and dog owners remain alert and aware in order to prevent dog bites in children. Parents can also prevent dog bites in children by educating themselves and their children best practices for meeting, playing with, and handling dogs.
Dog Bites and Children Statistics
The American Humane Association reports that:
- Roughly half of dog bites each year occur in children under age 12
- 82 percent of emergency room dog bite cases involved children under age 15
- 70 percent of deaths from dog bite attacks occur in children under age 10
- Boys under 15 years old experience more dog bites than girls of equal age
- 65 percent of dog bites in children occur in the child’s neck or head
- Unsupervised newborns are 370 times more likely to die of a dog bite attack than adults
Why Do Dogs Bite Children?
There are several theories to explain why dogs bite children. Many experts believe the smaller stature and generally more erratic behavior of children are contributing factors. As a result, children may be more likely to trigger the prey drive of a dog. Additionally, children display a heightened projection of energy when dealing with dogs and in general. A child’s overtly excited behavior may result in an accidental dog bite from becoming too rowdy. Likewise, a child’s fearful behavior may result in an aggressive dog bite in reaction to perceived fear and potential danger.
Preventing Dog Bites in Children
Children can help to prevent dog bites by practicing the following behaviors around dogs:
- Always asking the dog’s owner before petting an unfamiliar dog.
- Approaching from below the head when petting an unfamiliar dog. Many dogs may feel threatened when strangers pet the top of their head.
- Folding arms in and turning away when a dog jumps. Backing away should be avoided, as this may encourage the dog to continue jumping.
- Remain as calm as possible around dogs, as they may be threatened or agitated by too much energy.
- Always avoid loose, unfamiliar dogs that are not supervised by their owners.
Being Approached by a Dog
Parents should teach their children how the best ways to respond to being approached by an unfamiliar dog. For many children, the first reaction is to panic or run away. This can trigger fear and aggression in the dog, which can result in an attack. When children feel threatened by a dog, they should stand completely still and avoid eye contact. For younger children, this is often referred to as “being still like a tree.” Children are advised to stand with their side to the dog, not facing it directly. This helps to signal to the dog that the child is not a threat.
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