Educating Children About Dogs


Having a dog as a pet can be one of the cornerstones of a happy childhood. The joy and friendship of a dog can positively shape a child's world - the benefits of which can be carried forward throughout his or her entire life.

Unfortunately the majority of reported dog bite victims are children. As an example, here's a snapshot of statistical data compiled by CHIRPP (Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program) for 1996.

Based on percentages from their statistical data the most common dog bite 'event' was as follows:

  • A boy between 5 and 9 years old.

  • Bitten in the head/face/neck region.

  • By the dog of a friend, acquaintance, neighbour or relative.

  • When no interaction (such as play) with the dog was taking place.

  • On his own property.

  • Inside his own home.

  • Between 4pm and 8pm.

  • On a weekend.

  • During summer.

  • If taken to Emergency, advice or treatment received would not require a follow-up visit.

Rather than reading too much into this snapshot of data, it would be better to review this data within the context of the full statistical picture. Note: Of the 118,717 records on file 1,237 related to injuries caused by a dog bite or attack.

Why Are Children More At Risk To Be Bitten By Dogs?

Outside of the most outward and obvious vocal cues by a dog, such as barking or growling, a child will not know how to recognize the warning signs a dog will provide thus, quite unwittingly, a child may escalate a dog's stimulation, anxiety or fear which may cause it to bite.

Think of a child from the dog's point of view - a small animal with sudden bursts of energy, noise and emotion. Such seemingly erratic behaviour by a child can stimulate a dog or put it into an uncertain or nervous state which could lead to a defensive bite caused stress, anxiety or fear (as opposed to a predatory type of aggression).

Dog Bite Prevention for Children

When it comes to kids, studies have found that the best dog bite prevention is education. Your child is less likely to be bitten if he or she has been taught to understand how to act around dogs and how to play with them, as well as how to be introduced to them and when to leave them alone.

Whose responsibility is it to provide your child with this education? As a parent or guardian, the responsibility is yours, and yours alone. Here are some common sense rules from the American Humane Association to teach your children:

  • Don't treat a dog unkindly - Never hit, kick, slap or bite a dog. She is not a toy so never pull on her ears, tail or paws.

  • Don't bother a dog when she is busy - Never bother dogs with puppies or dogs that are playing with or guarding toys, eating or sleeping. Always leave service dogs alone while they are working.

  • Don't approach a dog you don't know - Never approach a dog that is tied up, or behind a fence, or in a car. If you find an injured animal, call the police or animal control for help. If you want to meet a dog, first ask the owner for permission. If the owner says it's "ok" hold out your hand in a fist for the dog to sniff. If he's interested you can give him a little scratch under his chin (not over his head) and say hello.

  • Be calm - Always talk in a quiet voice or whisper - no shouting - and take a "time out" if you feel angry or frustrated.

  • Be still - If a loose dog approaches you, stand still like a tree. Keep your hands at your sides, and stay calm and quiet. Look away from the dog. If you're on the ground, curl up into a ball, like a rock. Keep your knees to your chest and your hands over your ears. Stay quiet and calm. Look down at your knees, not at the dog. Always make slow movements, set things down carefully and don't run when you're around dogs as that gets them excited and they may accidentally hurt you.

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