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Keeping children safe from dog attacks

Did you know that 4 million dog attacks happen every year? In approximately 800,000 of these instances, the victims require emergency room or hospital care. Even more startling is the fact that half of the victims are children.

Children are particularly vulnerable to getting hurt by dogs due to their curiosity to touch animals, their small size and the way dogs may not trust kids. As such, every parent should have a talk with their children regarding dog psychology and safety as soon as their children are old enough to understand. Here are two things to discuss about dog safety:

The reasons for dog attacks

Joggers, runners, bikers, walkers, skateboarders, mailmen and motorists get attacked because swiftly moving objects — and people that "invade" the dogs territory — can trigger a dog's hunting mode. However, each dog has a different demeanor and attitude. There are many dogs that will not chase a moving car or bicyclist. Usually, these dogs have been diligently trained by their owners.

Here's how dog psychology often works in these situations. A jogger passes by the house, and the dog defends its territory by barking. As the person runs away, the dog feels great because he won the battle — his territory is secure! This reinforces the dog's aggressive behavior. If it barks, good things happen. Over time, the dog could become emboldened to actually start attacking people. It's not the dog's fault, really, it's the owner's failure to train their pet, or at the very least, to keep it restrained.

What to teach your kids

The take-home point of the story above is that we never know whether a dog is the attacking type or not. A dog might appear docile one moment, then activate its savage instincts the next. If children find themselves in the presence of dogs that become aggressive, here's what adults can teach them to do:

  1. Stay calm - When you yell, run or try to kick the dog, it will only serve to make it more aggressive. Staying calm will confuse an aggressive dog and throw it off-kilter.
  2. Don't make eye contact - Stand sideways to the dog and don't make direct eye contact. This will help you appear less aggressive and help the dog calm down.
  3. Claim your space - Pick something up that makes you look bigger, like an umbrella or a stick. Put it between you and the dog while you slowly back away to give yourself more space.
  4. Maintain your calm energy - As you back away and claim your space, your calmness can foil an aggressive response from the dog. It will see that you're not afraid and not a threat, and that you only want the space you're in — not its territory.

Was your child attacked?

If, in spite of your and your child's best efforts, a dog attack occurs, you may have costly medical bills to pay related to the injuries. In the best of circumstances following a dog attack, victims may be able to pursue financial claims. Be sure to fully understand your and your child's legal rights in this regard.

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