The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reports that each year more than 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs, and of those bit, more than half are kids younger than 14 years. When a child is bit, they’re far more likely to be severely injured than an adult too, and approximately 400,000 kids receive medical attention every year due to bites. According to AVMA, most of the time kids are bit while interacting with familiar dogs. However, in the summer, when you and your family tend to be outside more often, kids are more likely to run into dogs they don’t know. Young kids who don’t have a dog at home may be naturally curious about strange dogs they meet while hiking or at the park, but this curiosity can also result in a bite. Luckily a super quick lesson in dog safety can help keep your young child safe – then you’ve got one less excuse to stay inside. Keep reading for some helpful tips.

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Image by Flickr User Tobyotter

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), AVMA and the US Postal Service teamed up this year to create a pamphlet with helpful tips for parents who want to teach their kids about dog safety. These organizations recommend the following:

  • Teach your child to be cautious around strange dogs.
  • NEVER leave your baby or small child’s side if that means they’ll be alone with a dog.
  • Be alert for potentially dangerous situations, such as a dog who runs off from his owner at the park.
  • Teach your children not to approach strange dogs or try to pet dogs through fences.
  • Teach children to ask permission from a dog’s owner before petting their dog.
  • If a dog owner gives your child permission to pet a dog, tell your child to let the dog sniff your child first, then pet the dog gently, avoiding the face, head and tail.
  • Teach your child not to bother a dog if it is sleeping, eating or caring for puppies.
  • Tell your child not to run past a dog.
  • If your child is threatened by a dog, he should remain calm (which is easier said then done). Still, tell your child to avoid eye contact and not to run, but to stand still until the dog leaves or your child should back away slowly. If a child is knocked down, they should curl into a ball and protect their face with their hands.

If a dog does bite your child, wash the wound with soap and water and seek immediate medical treatment. Next, contact authorities and tell them everything you can about the dog including the owner’s name, and the color and size of the dog, where you encountered the dog and if, where, and when you’ve seen it before. All of the previous details assist animal-control officers in locating a dog. In addition, the AAP recommends that you ask your child’s doctor if post-exposure rabies prophylaxis is necessary.

+ Dog Bite Prevention Tips (pdf)

Lead image by Flickr User Andreas März