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Almost five million individuals are bit by dogs every year in the US alone, and over half of them are children. Children are drawn to dogs naturally, but it can be disastrous if something goes wrong. Here are a few rules you should follow to protect children from dog bites – and to protect the dogs too, which are put down if they bite a child.
- Stranger danger – Teach your children not to approach dogs they don't know, even if it seems friendly. Dogs tend to get skittish when they are around children as they can be unpredictable and have high energy. Combine that with the fact that children run towards dogs very often, and it will be no surprise even if a docile animal snaps. If the dog is present with his owner, teach your children to ask if they can approach from a distance and not be disappointed if the owner refuses.
- Remain calm – If a child is being approached by a strange dog, they should be taught to remain still and calm. Running from the dog can trigger its prey drive and it will end up chasing the child. Loud yelling noises can also increase the energy level of the dog and make it more anxious, which heightens the chances of it becoming aggressive. If the child is knocked down by the dog, he should roll himself into a ball and remain still, protecting the head and neck with the arms and hands. Over two-thirds of the dog bites are to these areas.
- Report to an adult – Teach your children to notify an adult if they see a dog behave in an unusual manner. If a dog is behaving erratically, it could be a sign of rabies, while a dog prancing around without being supervised is an indicator of excess energy or aggression. In such cases, the child should not approach the dog, but go to an adult they trust and tell them.
- Report bites – If your friend or a child is bitten by a dog, teach them to inform you immediately. Over a fifth of dog bites need medical attention. It is also very important to teach them not to worry about them or the dog getting into trouble in the case of an accident.
- No touch, no talk, no eye contact – This applies to anyone who meets a strange dog for the first time. Leaders should not approach a dog that is submissive. The dog should come to the leader. You emphasize the fact that you are the leader of the pack by not engaging with him. This also shows respect towards the dog as you are inviting him to approach you instead of invading his private space. If the dog touches you, it is okay to engage with him. Always approach the dog from its side and make sure you kneel down in front of it. Avoid petting an unfamiliar dog on the head as that can be perceived as a threat. Instead, scratch or pet the dog on the chest.