Running, giggling kids and furry, panting dogs go together like hamburgers and fries, right? Not always.

Instead of wet, sloppy kisses, some dogs may give a nasty bite. Every year, about 400,000 children in the U.S. seek medical attention for dog bites. Some are just nips but others are more serious. While most dogs will never bite anyone, when they do children are the most common victims, especially those ages 5 to 9. That’s likely because that age group is less supervised than younger children and tend to be at the “risk taking” age. Boys are at particular risk.

Remember, any dog — even the family pet — may bite if it feels threatened or frightened. Teach your children some general rules to avoid dog bites.

Family Rules

  • Don’t go up to an unfamiliar dog.
  • If a strange dog approaches, stand still “like a tree.” Don’t scream or run from a dog.
  • Avoid direct eye contact with a dog.
  • If a dog is with an owner, ask the owner for permission to pet the dog. If he says it’s OK, let the dog sniff you and touch the dog gently, avoiding the face, head, and tail. Always let a dog see and smell you before you pet it.
  • Never tease a dog.
  • Don’t bother a dog that is eating, sleeping or caring for puppies.
  • Don’t play with a dog without an adult present.
  • Tell an adult if you see an unfamiliar dog roaming the neighborhood or acting strangely.

Adult Rules

  • Research before you get a particular breed of dog to make sure it’s appropriate for homes with children.
  • Spay or neuter dogs, which tends to reduce aggressive tendencies, especially in males.
  • Never leave a baby or young child alone with any dog.
  • Don’t play aggressive games with your dog.
  • Make sure your dog is properly socialized and trained.
  • If a dog develops aggressive behaviors immediately seek professional advice from a veterinarian, trainer or reputable breeder.
  • Report stray or unusually behaved dogs to the police.

What to Do If A Dog Bites

Assuming you know the dog and know it has its rabies shots:

  • Determine how serious the bite is. If the bite barely breaks the skin, treat it as a minor wound. Wash it out thoroughly with soap and water, apply antibiotic ointment and cover with a bandage.
  • If the bite has penetrated deeply into an arm or leg or torn the skin, this is a more serious wound and should be seen by a doctor. First, apply a clean cloth firmly on the wound until bleeding has stopped. A doctor will determine whether stitches are needed or if additional treatment such as a tetanus shot is required.
  • Observe the bite for a few days. If the area become reddened around the bite, or swelling, oozing or pain develops, see a doctor to make sure the wound isn’t infected.

If you don’t know the dog or its vaccination status, or if the dog is a stray, call the local police or animal control agency in your area to capture the dog so it can be observed for rabies.


Expert Advice