Did you know that 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year? Or that one in five dog bites results in injuries that require medical attention? In 2006, more than 31,000 people underwent reconstructive surgery as a result of being bitten by dogs.
Dog bites are a largely preventable public health problem, and adults and children can learn to reduce their chances of being bitten.
Before you bring a dog into your household, you should consult with a professional, your veterinarian, an animal behaviorist, or responsible breeder might be able to help you to learn what breeds of dogs are the best fit for your family and household. When adopting, remember that dogs with histories of aggression are not suitable for households with children. Be sensitive to cues that a child is fearful or apprehensive about a dog. If a child seems frightened by dogs, wait before bringing a dog into your household. Always spend time with a dog before buying or adopting it.
If you decide to bring a dog into your home, spaying or neutering your dog can often help reduce aggressive tendencies. Never leave infants or young children alone with a dog. Don’t play aggressive games with your dog, like wrestling. You might think it is okay to play ruff with your dog, but your dog will not be able to distinguish when it is okay or not okay to play ruff. And when playing with another person or a child, this could result in an injury. Properly socialize and train any dog entering your household. Teach the dog submissive behaviors like rolling over to expose the abdomen and giving up food without growling. Always seek professional advice from veterinarians, animal behaviorists, or responsible breeders if the dog develops aggressive or undesirable behaviors.
To help prevent dog bites in children, teach them tips on what to do and what not to do when around unfamiliar dogs. Tell them not to approach an unfamiliar dog. Not to run from a dog or scream. They should "be still like a tree" when approached by an unfamiliar dog. Do not let your child play with a dog unless supervised by an adult. Tell them to avoid direct eye contact with a dog, and not to disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies. Remind them not to pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff them first, and if bitten, immediately report the bite to an adult.