Dog owners are ultimately responsible for preventing their pets from injuring others. As a parent, though, you can take steps to help your kids avoid a dangerous bite.
First, it is important to teach your children that they should not approach dogs they don’t know. Kids should understand that any dog can bite — including small dogs — if the dog is anxious or feels threatened. So, even the adorable maltipoo you see while out on a walk should be treated with respect.
Most children are thrilled to see a dog passing by on the sidewalk. To avoid a dangerous situation, though, teach your kids to ask the dog’s owner before stopping to pet the animal. The dog’s owner will be most familiar with the animal and will be able to gauge whether it is safe for your child to touch the dog.
In addition, children should be taught to remain calm and stay still if a dog approaches them. You may find it helpful to teach your child to “act like a tree” if a strange dog comes close. In most cases, the dog will sniff the child and move on once it determines the child is not a threat.
Children should also know how to react if a dog acts in a threatening manner. While the natural reaction may be to scream and run away, this will likely make the situation worse. Instead, the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that children who are facing a threatening dog should:
- Avoid eye contact
- Attempt to stay calm and still
- Back away slowly if the dog does not leave
If the dog knocks the child to the ground, the child should roll into a ball and cover his or her face, head and neck.
These worst-case scenarios, when a dog bites a child, are emotional and can be difficult for any family to handle. In our next post, we will discuss what should be done after a child suffers a dog bite.
Have you talked to your kids about dog safety? Tell us what has worked for you.