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According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), “with an estimated population of 70 million dogs living in U.S. households, millions of people, most of them children, are bitten by dogs every year. The majority of these bites, if not all, are preventable.”

Most child dog bites are a result of normal daily interactions with a familiar dog. Children often startle dogs and they react. Dogs bite as a reaction to a situation, most often a stressful situation. The bite can be provoked by feeling threatened or to protect something they find valuable (food, puppies, toys). Dogs may bite if they are ill or injured and want to be left alone.

Some dog’s bite or nip during play. This can still be quite dangerous to people. Avoiding wrestling or playing tug-of-war with dogs that tend to become overly excited.

Socializing your pet with unfamiliar people and dogs can lessen their fear and may decrease their potential to bite.

Many children are very comfortable around dogs because they may have a dog at home or a family member or neighbor has a dog they are exposed to. Unfortunately, children assume every dog is nice and approachable. It is important for children to learn boundaries and rules when it comes to unfamiliar dogs.

The AVMA offers these tips to help children understand the importance of respecting dogs and avoiding bites:

Avoid unknown dogs. If they see a dog they don’t know and it is wandering around loose and unsupervised, avoid the dog and consider leaving the area.
Always ask an owner for permission to pet their dog. Don’t ever pet a dog without asking first, even if it is a dog they know, or a dog that has seemed friendly toward them before.
If an aggressive dog confronts a child, teach them to confidently, quietly, walk away. Teach children to avoid escalating the situation by yelling, running, hitting, or making sudden movements toward the dog.
Teach children boundaries with family dogs. Enforce the idea that the pet’s bed or crate is the dog’s space and they are to be left alone. A dog needs a comfortable, safe place where the child never goes.
Educate children at a level they can understand. Don’t expect young children to be able to accurately read a dogs’ body language. Instead, focus on gentle behavior and that dogs have likes and dislikes and help them develop understanding of dog behavior as they grow older.
Teach children never to tease dogs by taking their toys, food or treats, or by pretending to hit or kick.
Teach children to never pull a dog’s ears or tail, climb on or try to ride them.
Tell children to leave the dog alone when it’s asleep or eating.
Don’t encourage children to pretend small dogs are dolls. Most dogs do not like to be carried around or dressed up.
Don’t give children too much responsibility for pets too early. Always supervise and check on pet care responsibilities given to children to ensure they are carried out.

Newtown Veterinary Specialists recommends incorporating these safety tips into your daily interactions with your canine companion. By so doing, you’ll be nurturing the bond between your family and man’s best friend. For more information on National Dog Bite Prevention Week visit https://www.avma.org/public/Pages/Dog-Bite-Prevention.aspx. For more information about Newtown Veterinary Specialists visit http://www.newtownvets.com.

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