No one wants to believe a dog would ever harm them, but the unfortunate reality is that dog bites aren’t a rare occurrence. Over 4.5 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs each year, and at least half of dog bite victims are children.
Children aren’t just more likely to get bit; they’re also more likely to suffer serious injuries that require medical attention due to their small size. Fortunately, most dog bites are preventable. By learning how to interpret dog body language and practicing appropriate behavior around dogs, you and your children can avoid severe dog bites this summer.
Understanding dog body language
The fact is, any dog can bite if it feels provoked. However, if you can teach your kids to read the signs that a dog displays when they feel threatened, anxious or aggressive, you can help keep them safe from serious injuries.
- Aggressive dogs try to look bigger. Their fur on their back and tail may be standing up, they may have stiff posture, or they may be staring intently at the person they perceive as a threat. Aggressive dogs also bare their teeth, snarl, growl, lunge and bark. Teach your child never to approach a dog showing this body language.
- Scared dogs try to look smaller. If a dog feels anxious, they may crouch to the ground, lower their head, lick their lips repeatedly or put their tail between their legs. They may try to move away from the perceived threat slowly. If a scared dog feels trapped and fearful, they may bite as a last resort.
- A combination of behaviors. Uncomfortable dogs can display both aggressive and anxious body language, which usually means they aren’t sure if you are a threat. Whatever you do, do not let your children approach a dog showing any of signs of fear or aggression.
Teaching children how to behave around dogs
A vast majority of dog bites are by dogs the victim is familiar with. No matter how well your kid knows a dog, teaching them how to behave respectfully around canines will ensure they don’t unintentionally provoke them. It would help if you taught your kids to never:
- Approach a dog who is eating, sleeping, playing with a toy or with its puppies.
- Approach a barking, growing or frightened dog
- Approach an unfamiliar dog without permission from the owner
- Pet a dog behind a fence or in a car
- Try to outrun a dog if the dog gets aggressive
Dogs make loving companions, but their bites can be severe – especially for children. However, by teaching kids to read dog cues and practice respectful interactions, you can help to keep them safe.