Protecting Kids from Dogs that Bite

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Each year, dogs bite more than 4.7 million Americans, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). More than half of those bitten are children under 14.

Any dog — even a good one — can bite if it feels threatened or is in pain. Here are some AAP tips to help protect children from canine teeth:

• Pick a good match. 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 dog. Avoid aggressive games like wrestling or tug-of-war with your dog.

• Vaccinate your dog against rabies and other diseases.

• Neuter or spay your dog. These 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.

• Urge your child not to bother a dog if it is sleeping, eating or caring for puppies.

• Encourage your child not to run past a dog. If a dog threatens you, remain calm. Avoid eye contact.

• Stand still or back away slowly until the dog leaves. 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. Also, contact the dog’s veterinarian to check vaccination records.

• Never approach an unknown dog or a dog that is alone without its owner, and always ask the owner’s permission before petting it.

The American Humane Society recommends teaching your children:

• Never approach an injured animal — go find an adult who can get it the help it needs.

• Never approach a dog that is eating, sleeping or has something it likes —like a bone or toy — because it might feel the need to guard it.

• Don’t poke, hit, pull, pinch or tease a dog — the dog might not realize you’re just playing.

• Don’t chase or run from a dog.