Puppies and children

Keeping your children safe from strange dogs

Child with dog

Children are amazingly loving and carefree but too much friendliness could get them bitten, and in some cases even killed, when coming across a strange dog while playing outdoors. Teaching your children to approach new dogs in a calm, controlled manner can help prevent these problems.

First, children need to ask for permission from their parents and the dog’s owner before approaching any dog. If the owner isn’t nearby, avoid any contact with the dog.

Second, children should approach the dog slowly, offering their hand palm up for the dog to sniff. Depending in the dog’s size and age, children may need to squat down to the dog’s level so as to avoid appearing dominant by towering over the dog. Because dogs view a pat on top of the head as a threat, children should scratch under the chin instead.

Finally, children should never try to pick up the dog or stare directly into its eyes because the dog can perceive these actions as threatening. Speaking in a soft, gentle voice can help the dog see the child more favorably as well.

Well behaving dogs may still be a threat

One of the biggest mistakes parents make is trusting a dog that seems to be well-behaved (showing signs of having been training by sitting or staying put), but although a dog may be well-trained, if it has not been socialized (accustomed to being around children), then the bite risk is still high. This is why you should teach your kids never to hug a strange dog.

Hugs can be dangerous. Some dogs feel hugs intrude on their personal space. During a hug, a child might also accidentally squeeze the dog too tightly around its neck or body, causing the dog harm. For a dog that isn’t comfortable around kids, even direct eye contact could be seen as threatening.

What to do if your child is bitten

What if – despite your best efforts – a dog does bite your child?  The very first thing you should do is wash the bite immediately with soap and water. Make no haste in contacting your child’s pediatrician (unless it’s only a scratch) and the dog’s owner to let them know what happened.

If you don’t know who owns the dog, try to find out. Follow the dog home if necessary. This is especially important if the dog is acting like it’s unhealthy. Rabies is more prevalent in some areas than others, but it’s a reality and needs to be considered.

Once a doctor or other health professional gets involved, they are required by law to notify the local animal-control agency. The dog will probably be quarantined for 10 days. Usually this is done under house arrest. However, some states may require the dog to be kenneled at the animal-control or veterinary facility for observation (in case it starts showing signs of rabies).