New Stats Show Kids Most At Risk For Being Bitten By Dogs

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National Dog Bite Prevention Week helps shed a light on how to teach children to understand doggy body language and the danger of ignoring warning signs.

Dog Bites by the Numbers We teach our kids about the importance of good table manners, to always say please and thank you and to play well with others. But during National Dog Bite Prevention Week, we take a look at stats provided by one of North America’s most well-known insurance agencies, and it’s clear that what we aren’t teaching them is how to interact with doggies.

In 2013, State Farm paid nearly $115 million as a result of 3,500 dog-related injury claims. Over the past five years, the insurer has paid $528 million for similar claims and according to the American Humane Association (AHA) the majority of emergency room treatments for dog bites involve children.

Related: Liam J. Perk Foundation: Dog Safety Awareness And Education For Families

While the numbers don’t flag whether these instances involve the family pet or a stranger dog, its important parents understand that even well trained, gentle pooches are capable of biting when provoked – especially when eating, not feeling well, sleeping or caring for her puppies.  And the sad truth is that a nasty bite can produce two victims; the injured child and the dog who may be unfairly labelled and abandoned or euthanized by the owner.

Bounding to the rescue is the American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA), introducing new educational programs for pet owners of all ages including engaging YouTube videos and podcasts.

Related: How To Introduce Your Dog To A New Baby

Think your kids know better? Partner organization, “Prevent The Bite” recently surveyed 710 children on 12 key things to do and not to do in various situations with dogs. Guess what? Not one kid answered all 12 correctly. Here are some of the rather concerning results:

  • If a dog is chasing you, should you try to run away? Just 53 percent knew the answer was No.
  • Are there only certain breeds (or types) of dogs that bite? Only 47 percent knew the answer was No.
  • Does an angry dog ever wag his tail? A mere 33 percent knew the correct answer was Yes.
  • Is a dog that is afraid as dangerous as an angry dog? Only 27 percent knew the answer was Yes.
  • Do dogs like to be kissed and hugged? A dangerously low number, only 24 percent, were correct – NO!

As parents and educators, we’re responsible for teaching children how to properly interact with dogs. It’s time to incorporate the following AHA Dog Basics into your Miss Manners courses on proper behaviors for kids.

It’s up to you to teach your kids to:

  • Never approach a dog they don’t know – especially if his owner is not with him.
  • Always ask for permission before petting a dog – ask the owner, not the dog!
  • Never approach an injured animal – they need to find an adult who can get the help s/he needs
  • Never approach a dog that is eating, sleeping or nursing puppies- no matter how cute they are .
  • Don’t poke, hit, pull, pinch or tease a dog – Kids don’t like it and neither does the dog!

For Dog Owners:

  • Be alert. Ask adult or child strangers to wait a few moments before petting your pooch so s/he has a chance to become comfortable.
  • Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog, even if it is a family pet, and monitor interactions.
  • Make sure your pet is socialized as a young puppy so it feels at ease around people and other animals.
  • Never put your dog in a position where s/he feels threatened.
  • Use a leash in public to ensure you are able to control your dog.

And just like we humans, animals are at their crankiest when they aren’t feeling well so be sure to take your little buddy in for regular veterinary care to ensure he’s always feeling his best.

A must-read for new parents is AHA’s free online booklet called “Pet Meets Baby”.  It provides comprehensive information on introducing a new child to a home with a pet – or a new pet into a home with a child. You can download the booklet for free on the AHA website. Plus, there are plenty of tools you can use with your children (again, free for the taking) by clicking on Prevent The Bite page.

Mary SimpsonMary Simpson is a writer and communications professional from Port Credit, Ontario.  A soft touch for anything stray, she shares her century home with an eclectic collection of rescues that include orange tabby Chico, tuxedo Simon, and jet black Owen.  She enjoys running, politics, exploring the wine regions of Niagara and is an avid supporter of the “shop local” movement.