Every year, more than 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs. More than half of all victims are younger than age 14.
During National Dog Bite Prevention Week May 18 to 24, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Veterinary Medical Association and the US Postal Service are teaming up to educate Americans about dog safety. Following are tips to help parents protect their children from an encounter with canine teeth:
• Pick a good match. Collies and Labrador retrievers are some of the animals recommended as generally safe with children. Consult your veterinarian for details about the behavior of different breeds.
• Socialize your pet. Gradually expose your puppy to a variety of people and other animals so it feels at ease in these situations; continue this exposure as your dog gets older.
• Train your dog. Commands can build a bond of obedience and trust between man and beast. Avoid aggressive games like wrestling or tug-of-war with your dog.
• Vaccinate your dog against rabies and other diseases.
• Neuter your dog. Neutered dogs are less likely to bite.
• Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
• Teach your child to see if the dog is with an owner and looks friendly. Then ask the owner for permission to pet the dog. Let the dog sniff your child and have your child touch the dog gently, avoiding the face, head and tail.
• Tell 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 you’re threatened by a dog, remain calm. Avoid eye contact. Stand still until the dog leaves or back away slowly. If you are knocked down, curl into a ball and protect your face with your hands. If a dog bites your child, clean small wounds with soap and water and seek medical attention for larger wounds. Contact the dog’s veterinarian to check vaccination records.