Dog Bites

Categories: Dog Safety

By Laura Yurchak

Last year, Loving Paws client and Southport Elementary School Counselor, Heidi, asked me to spend some time at the school talking to the children about the proper way to approach  and interact with dogs. She brought her Border Collie/Golden mix, Blu, to the school to help demonstrate key points for the children to remember. The children were a joy to work with and they were very receptive to the information we presented. Blu was perfect with children, which made this a success.
According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year. On an average, 1 out of 5 of those bitten requires medical attention. Those mostly at risk are:
  • Children: The rate of dog bite–related injuries is highest for those ages 5 to 9 years, and children are more likely than adults to receive medical attention for dog bites.
  • Adult Males: Among adults, males are more likely than females to be bitten.
  • People with dogs in their homes: Among children and adults, having a dog in the household is associated with a higher incidence of dog bites. As the number of dogs in the home increases, so does the incidence of dog bites. shows the following statistics for 2008.
  • 23 U.S. fatal dog attacks occurred in 2008.
  • 70% of the attacks occurred to children (11 years and under) and 30% occurred to adults (21 years and older). Of the children, half (8) occurred to ages 1 and younger.
  • 39% of fatal attacks in 2008 involved multiple dogs; 9% involved chained dogs.
  • 78% of the attacks occurred on owner property and 22% off owner property.
  • 61% of the victims were male; 39% of the victims were female. Of the male victims, over half (8) were 3 years and younger.
The following tips are not just for teaching children about how to interact with dogs, but also for adults, too. – Read chapter 3 [Socialization, Fear and Aggression] of Jean Donaldson’s classic book on dog training, The Culture Clash.
  • Never leave a child with a dog unsupervised.
  • Children old enough can help parents train their dog. Teach children the proper way to play with dogs and toys.
  • Teach your children how to approach and interact with dogs.
Although the statistics vary between reports, the message stays the same. If you follow these guidelines, you may be able to prevent a dog bite from happening. Since children have a greater chance to be bitten, it is critical that parents teach them how to respect and interact with a dog. Even if your family dog is tolerant of children (or adults) being rough
with them or laying on top of them, there may be a day when the dog says “enough.” Is the dog to blame if they aren’t up for that kind of interaction? Absolutely not.
The children at the school were given a copy of a shorter version of PETTING below. Adults and children should do their best to remember as many points as possible. I urge parents to take time out of your busy schedules to teach your children the following basic safety tips and review them regularly.
P PERMISSION: Ask permission before petting someone else’s dog.
E EASY: Take it Easy. Stand still and speak softly. Don’t run, scream, wrestle, or lay on a dog. Never kick, hit, or pull on a dog’s tail, ears, paws or hair.
T TURNS: Take turns when petting a dog. One person at a time.
T TOUCHING: Let the dog sniff your hand first. Pet a dog on their back. Never pet the top of their head.
I INVADE: Don’t invade a dog’s space. Let the dog come and sniff you first. Don’t disturb a resting or sleeping dog.
N NEVER APPROACH: Don’t approach a strange dog. Avoid direct eye contact.
G GROWL: A growl is a warning that the dog may bite.
Other tips:
  • Remain motionless (e.g., “be still like a tree”) when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
  • If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and lie still (e.g., “be still like a log”).
  • Immediately report stray dogs or dogs displaying unusual behavior to an adult.
  • If bitten, immediately report the bite to an adult.