“-The odds that a dog bite victim will be a child are 3.2 to 1. (Center for Disease Control and Prevention )
-Severe injuries from dog bites is highest for children ages 5 to 9 years.
-Three quarters of dogs involved in bite incidents belong to the victim’s family or a friend.
-The majority of dog attacks (61%) happen at home or in a familiar place.
-When a child less than 4 years old is the victim, the family dog was the attacker half the time (47%), and the attack almost always happened in the family home.
-The face (lips, nose and cheeks) of children under 10-years-old are the most frequent target of a dog bite (77% of all injures).
-The odds that a victim of a fatal dog attack will be a burglar are 1 in 177. The odds that it will be a child are 7 in 10.” (safetyarounddogs.org)
How do we fix this? Education. As an owner or parent/guardian it is our responsibility to monitor 100% of interactions between children and dogs, whether that is your family pet or a strange dog. Along with monitoring interactions we must:
–Socialize our dogs with children from a young age. Many dogs are intimidated by our tiny humans because they are eye level, loud and energetic.
–Teach our children appropriate interactions with dogs. Don’t allow a child to take advantage of a dog who is exhibiting extreme patience. No ear pulling, sitting on, jumping on, pulling tails, etc. No Max doesn’t “love it”. I promise.
–Be aware of your surroundings when you are out and about. Especially in an area where there is a high population of stray dogs. If you see one, call your local animal control. If a neighbor has a dog who isn’t the friendliest and the dog has a tendency to wander, call your local animal control.
-While you’re out walking with YOUR dog, unless your dog is 100% comfortable, do not let unknown kids greet him/her. A dog who cannot flee because they are on leash could feel the need to lash out to defend himself. Our Erni loves HIS child and children he’s regularly exposed to, strange children make him incredibly nervous.
–Do not let children chase your dog, if the dog wants to interact with the child it will approach them. A dog will only flee a situation for so long, if fleeing isn’t working they will try another approach. Usually this approach involves teeth and claws.
– If you are having people over and those people do not follow your training protocol or the children are less than respectful around dogs, Fido can be put away where he will be safe and so will the kids. Being “bummed” about not being able to play with the dog will heal much faster than a dog bite wound.
-Be mindful of an older or sleeping dog. If a dog is startled they can instinctually go into “fight or flight” and defend themselves. Never let your children wake a sleeping dog.
–Never let your children ride, sit or jump on your dogs, for not only your child’s safety but for the safety of the dog as well. They are hardy animals but being jumped on hurts them, too!
–NEVER allow your child into your dog’s crate/kennel, especially if the dog is also in there. That is your dog’s safe space and should stay that way, not to mention in case of an emergency you have limited access to get to your child quickly. Even the most well rounded animal can be uncomfortable with their space being invaded in close quarters.
–Watch dogs at play. An overly playful or excitable dog can also pose a threat to the safety of children, especially young children. The dog can jump on children or be especially mouthy leading to injuries. More worrisome, when a dog is in an escalated state of mind, or very excited, it isn’t uncommon that they will redirect their energy or exhibit an unusual behavior. By this I mean they could resource guard the ball they have been chasing or “tiff” with other family dogs. This is why those of you with multiple dogs can see your dogs go from playing well to a scuffle in a blink of an eye. So be mindful of children while dogs are playing, whether they play with each other or fetch/tug with their owner. The last thing anyone wants is a child to get caught up between two 60lb dogs.
–Know at LEAST a little dog body language. Understand stress signals from your dog so you can tell when they are reaching their threshold. Even the most tolerant and patient dog has a snapping point, it is your job to intervene before it gets to that point. Some stress signals include:
-frequent full body shake-off
-“whale eye” or you can see the whites of their eyes
-Avoidance whether that be “looking away” or the dog keeps turning their head from the child OR the dog has removed himself from the situation several times.
-ears pinned flat back
-tension in face, especially the eyes/mouth
-tail tucked between legs or held very low
-carrying weight more on back paws
-sweating from paws
-especially slow and tense movements or especially quick movements
-low body posture
-not attentive to owner
Each of the above listed stress signals do not individually mean your dog is overly stressed, but if your dog is exhibiting several of these behaviors simultaneously then it’s safe to say your dog is stressed and wants to be removed from the situation.
Dogs cannot speak english, they are not humans, they cannot verbally communicate “please leave me alone”. It is our responsibility as adults/owners to know our dogs and their body language well enough to be able to be the bridge in communication between children and dogs. We need to step in when the dog is overwhelmed because a whale eye and growl can turn into a snap very quickly, and in this case it wouldn’t be the fault of the dog’s. By giving any of the above signals he has clearly communicate that he is uncomfortable and wants to be left alone.
Dogs can be AMAZING additions to our families, but lets keep them and our children all safe! Tail wags to all!