Health officials say dogs bite or attack more than 4.5 million people each year, killing an average of 20 people.
Young children are often the most vulnerable to these attacks.
~~ [Excerpt from CNN.com Health]
Why are children more vulnerable to dog attacks?
- Children are smaller. They move faster and more erratically compared to adults, and that may trigger a dog’s prey drive.
- Children frequently project excited or fearful energy when interacting with dogs. Excited energy may cause a dog to become overly-hyper, and accidentally hurt the child while trying to initiate play. Fearful energy may cause a dog to become fearful himself, and show aggression because of anxiety and fear.
Always have adult supervision when children and dogs are at play.
However, this is dangerous for the dog, who may be hit by cars, step on broken bottles, or eat something poisonous (e.g. anti-freeze, oleander leaves). This is also dangerous for people, especially children, who may inadvertently trigger a dog attack.
As dog owners, it is our responsibility to ensure that our backyard is secure, and to keep our dogs safe and on-leash while out on a walk.
Provide enough physical and mental exercise for our dog every day, so that he does not feel the need to escape and find adventure on his own.
What Children Should Know About Greeting Dogs
Prevent Dog Attack Tip 1
Always ask the dog owner before greeting a dog.
If a child would like to meet an unknown dog, always ask the dog owner first. Some dogs may be fearful, or unsure of strangers. Others may be too excited, and unfamiliar with children.
Prevent Dog Attack Tip 2
Approach the dog from below the head.
It is natural for children to approach a dog from above, and pet him at the top of his head.
However, some dogs may see this as a threat. Imagine if a really large stranger came up to you, loomed over you, and started to extend his hand over your head. It would be natural to feel threatened, and get a bit fearful.
Because of fear, a dog may try to run away or respond with aggression, especially if he feels cornered.
Therefore, try to approach from below the dog’s head and scratch his chest, rather than pet the top of his head. Instruct a child not to initiate direct eye-contact with the dog, as that can also be seen as a threat.
Prevent Dog Attack Tip 3
Fold our arms and turn away when a dog jumps.
If a dog becomes too excited and starts jumping on us –
- Stand up.
- Fold our arms, so that the dog cannot get at our hands.
- Withdraw our attention by turning away from the dog.
DO NOT move back or away from the dog, as that will encourage him to jump forward.
Prevent Dog Attack Tip 4
Stay calm and try not to be too excited or fearful.
Dogs are very sensitive to our energy. If a child gets excited, a dog can easily sense this, and will likely become excited as well. This can sometimes lead to aggression.
Fearful, frustrated, and angry energy, can bring similar responses.
When meeting a dog, try and get our child to stay calm. If the child starts to feel fearful or stressed, cut the greeting short and leave before an accident occurs.
What Children Should Know About Loose Dogs
Prevent Dog Attack Tip 5
Avoid free-roaming dogs.
Children should avoid loose dogs whenever possible.
Tell a child not to interact with loose dogs, play with them, or try to challenge them. Do not turn his back to the dog and run, as that may trigger the dog’s prey drive. Do not initiate direct eye-contact as that may be seen as a challenge.
Instead, ask the child to stay calm and walk slowly away from the dog, while keeping the dog in his periphery view. A sideways walk usually works best.
Prevent Dog Attack Tip 6
Use the environment.
When a child sees a loose dog, he should create as much space as possible between the dog and himself. Walk behind objects in the environment such as parked cars, and hedges, so that there is a visual barrier between him and the dog.
If our child feels at all threatened, tell him to ring the doorbells of nearby houses and seek temporary sanctuary, rather than risk the longer walk home.
Prevent Dog Attack Tip 7
Never use physical force.
In a physical competition, the dog will always win.
Dogs can run faster, they have much larger teeth, much greater jaw strength, and more powerful claws. In short, dogs have far superior physical kung-fu compared to us humans.
Children should never try to scare off a dog by throwing sticks or stones at him. This will only encourage the dog to engage them physically, either to play or to get them to back off.
Children should never try to beat an approaching dog with a stick or baseball bat, even if the dog is aggressive. Hitting will make the dog feel even more threatened, and cause him to escalate his aggression.
Instead of using physical force, instruct the child to be as boring as possible. Stay silent, and do not move if the dog decides to approach. Dogs will usually leave boring objects alone, because there are more interesting things to do elsewhere.
Prevent Dog Attack Tip 8
Be a ball.
If the dog becomes aggressive and starts to attack, it is safest for the child to curl into a ball, and protect his head and neck with his arms.
Socialize Our Children to Dogs
Fear is our enemy.
Children who are fearful of dogs frequently trigger a dog attack. Fearful energy makes a dog view a child as prey, or makes the dog fearful himself, resulting in fear aggression.
Prevent Dog Attack Tip 9
Socialize our children to dogs.
Children who have greeted and played with many dogs, tend to be more comfortable and less fearful of new dogs.
Start by introducing children to a variety of older dogs, who are calmer, and less likely to jump and bite. Once they are comfortable with that, we can move on to calm adult dogs, calm larger dogs, and so on.
Off-leash hiking parks can also be a good way to meet nice, balanced dogs. Park rules usually require owners to have good voice control over their dogs, before letting them go off-leash.
It is illegal and dangerous to let a dog off-leash if he does not respond consistently to our commands, and especially if he has any aggression issues.
Note that when I say off-leash hiking parks, I do not mean fenced or enclosed dog parks. Enclosed dog parks have a high density of dogs in a relatively small area. Many dogs are engaged in exuberant play, and may be in a highly excitable state. This is a dangerous environment for children.
Most enclosed dog parks do not allow young children to enter, because they may accidentally get hurt by the dogs during play. In fact, I have gotten “swept off my feet” several times in an enclosed dog park, when my dog came running toward me and his playmate accidentally slammed into my legs.
It is best not to bring children to enclosed dog parks.
Prevent Dog Attacks Tip 10
Get a family dog.
If we have both time and money, an effective way to socialize children to dogs is to get a family dog. Only get a dog with a balanced temperament, who will get along with everyone in the family, and whose energy level matches our family’s lifestyle.
Remember though, that even the most well-behaved dog is a big time and financial commitment.
All dogs need daily walks, play sessions with the family, and healthy food. All dogs need to be vaccinated every year, and they also need supplements like HeartGuard to protect them from dangerous dog parasites.
Prevent Dog Attacks Tip 11
Address our own fear of dogs.
When we are fearful of dogs, we pass that fear onto our children.
The first step in teaching our child not to be afraid of dogs, is to deal with our own phobia. One effective way to control my fear of dogs, was to take classes on how to train dogs, and how to deal with bad dog behaviors.
Once I had the tools to communicate with my dogs, and to counter their bad behaviors, I started to more fully enjoy their company. By doing joint training activity, we started building up trust and respect for each other. Once this happened, my fear went away.