If you are a dog lover, you likely cannot imagine a loving canine companion ever hurting you, a member of your family or a guest at your home. However, it might surprise you to learn that over 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs in the U.S. each year. More alarmingly, children are the most common victims of dog bites and are among the most likely to sustain serious injuries – especially on the head and neck.
No matter how well you know and trust a dog, it’s essential to remember no dog is childproof. Regardless of their size, breed or temperament, any dog is capable of biting and causing injuries. Here are some of the most pervasive myths about children and dogs and what you can do to keep your family safe:
Myth: A dog that is safe with adults is also safe with children
Adults and children – whether they are babies, toddlers or school-aged – appear very different to dogs. Not only are children much smaller than adults, but they behave, interact and move much differently than adults too. Often, whether they mean to or not, children can be loud and unpredictable, causing dogs to feel anxious or threatened.
Myth: My child is well-behaved, so I don’t have to worry
Even if you believe your child and his or her friends understands how to behave appropriately around dogs, all dogs are different and interpret body language differently. Sometimes, even if a child is being gentle and speaking softly, the wrong touch or pet can trigger fear or aggression in the animal.
Dog’s also do not always provide obvious warning signs when they are uncomfortable – such as growling or backing away. They might lick their lips, yawn or look away if they feel anxious, which children usually do not interpret as warning signs.
Myth: My child knows the dog, so it won’t bite them
It might surprise you to learn that most dog bites to children happen with dogs they are familiar with, including the family dog. Even a well-socialized and trained canine can bite in response to a perceived threat, pain or fear. Adult dog owners should avoid leaving children unsupervised with dogs no matter how well they know them to prevent miscommunication.
When it comes to keeping children safe around dogs, it’s important to understand that dogs do not view children as they do adults. By understanding how to avoid unsafe interactions, you can ensure your children and their friends are safe in the company of canines.