Children are more likely than adults to experience a dog bite, as well as more likely to suffer serious injuries from a bite. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five dog bites is serious enough to require medical attention.
Take these steps to reduce the risk of a childhood dog bite injury for your kids.
Approach dogs carefully
Let your children know that they should always ask the owner before petting an unfamiliar dog. Show them how to let the dog sniff their hands before touching the animal.
If an unfamiliar dog approaches, kids should stand still and avoid running away or getting closer to the animal. Turn to the side to pose less of a threat to the animal than facing it directly. Remain quiet or tell the dog firmly “No!” Teach your kids to stay away from a dog that is eating, sleeping or taking care of puppies.
Show your kids how to react if a dog attacks. They should curl into a ball and protect their head with the arms and hands. Never leave kids alone with a dog.
Adopt with caution
If you decide to adopt a pet dog, work with a reputable shelter or breeder who can help recommend the right breed and dog for your family. Research breeds that are particularly good with young children. Know which dogs can cause significant damage with a single bite, including Akitas, pit bulls, Rottweilers and German shepherds.
Pay attention to body language
Dogs show physical signs of aggression when they are fearful or threatened. Guide your child away from a dog that has puffed up its fur to look larger, shrinks to the ground to appear smaller or is barking, biting, growling, snarling or baring its teeth.
In Virginia, dog owners are subject to a one-bite liability rule. That means that the owner is financially responsible for the costs associated with the injury if he or she knew the dog could be aggressive toward humans.