Every year almost 5 million Americans get bitten by dogs and approximately 750,000 of these incidents require medical attention. The most surprising thing is that the majority of dog bites occur within pet owners' homes, and nearly half involve children being bitten by the family dog.
Conscientious parents can significantly reduce these high incidence rates by learning some basic guidelines that will help their children avoid getting bitten by their own dogs. (Note that this week is National Dog Bite Prevention Week).
Safety Tips for Parents
* Under no circumstances should a baby be left alone with a dog.
* Young children should never walk or feed a dog unsupervised.
* Do not allow a small child to discipline a dog.
* Prevent children from pulling on a dog's collar or aggressive or rough play.
* As a general rule, children should be taught to never pet a strange dog, even if the owner is present.
* Children should stay away from dogs that are eating or sleeping, and avoid dogs that have new puppies.
* Dogs that are tied up should never be approached; children should never retrieve a ball from an unfamiliar yard.
Of course dog bites are not restricted to young children - just ask any one of the 3,000-plus U.S. Postal Service letter carriers who were attacked last year. Like postal workers, all people should follow safety guidelines when a dog approaches.
Safety Tips to Follow When a Dog Approaches
* Don't try to make friends with an unfamiliar dog.
* Stand still, stand tall and don't move until the dog loses interest in you - don't try to run away.
* Allow the dog to smell you but don't put your hand out; let the dog come close to you on its own terms.
* Face the dog at all times but don't make eye contact with the dog or stare - this can be perceived as a sign of aggression.
* Back away slowly, watching the dog from the corner of your eye.
* If the dog knocks you down, roll up into a fetal position with your arms covering your head and neck and play dead; don't fight back. However, do not roll up like this just because you feel threatened; this could cause an attack.
Following these helpful tips can reduce the risk of adults and children being bitten by strange or familiar dogs.
Al and Lisa Holzer, West Linn, are with Bark Busters Home Dog Training.