Although dogs are man’s best friend, they can sometimes have temper tantrums and snap when they feel threatened or scared. Often, dog bites are not very serious and is a result of the animal’s fear or sense of uncertainty in a situation. That is why people, especially children need to be educated on how to behave around animals so as not to take a pet by surprise.
Each year in the U.S. alone, dogs bite an estimated 4.5 million people, according to a survey conducted in 1994 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The dog generally attacks children and senior citizens. About 800,000 of these victims of dog bites need medical attention, out of which, about 15-20 people die from their injuries.
Most dogs are not bad-tempered; vicious pets need serious evaluation due to constant biting. While those cases need serious consideration and caution, most dog bites are not so serious, and occur when a dog – no matter how big or small, how friendly or playful – has been provoked and snaps as a defense.
In order to reduce your risk (and your children’s risk) of getting bitten, a little information on how to behave around animals can go a long way in helping kids to understand the importance of respecting dogs and avoiding bites.
- When you are around a dog, ask the owner about its temperament – is it playful around children; does it like to be petted; is it likely to snap easily? Keep your distance from dogs that aren’t friendly and definitely keep children far away from them.
- For dogs that are deemed friendly by their owner, approach the animal slowly and let it sniff your closed hand for a bit to get familiar with you before you attempt to pet it. Don’t pet a dog on the top of its head; shoulders or chest areas are better.
- Dogs are more likely to bite if they are shocked. Tell your children never to touch or go near a dog that is asleep or eating – whether it’s eating its meals, a bone or even chewing on a toy.
- Don’t approach a dog caring for its young. Dogs are very protective of their young and could bite you if they think you are a threat.
- Stay away from a growling or barking dog or one that looks like it is frightened.
- Tell your child to never approach or pet stray dogs and if a dog on the road approaches them to avoid making eye contact or yelling. Instead, they should stand still and wait till the animal moves past them.
- Give your child some tips in case it is chased by a dog. For starters, if they are toppled over by the animal it is advisable for them to remain on the floor, be quiet, curl up and place their hands behind their neck to protect it. By remaining quiet a dog is likely to lose interest and move on.
- If a dog seems to be running after a child to attack it, the child should try to take off a piece of clothing or equipment such as a coat or a backpack for the dog to take hold off and get distracted with.
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