Each year, approximately 4.7 million
dog bite injuries are reported across the country. Nearly 50% of dog bite incidents involve
children who are bitten by a familiar or household dog. Within the the
state of Florida, nearly 500 dog bite cases require hospitalization every year.
Many people simply do not understand dog behavior. A majority of dog bites
occur because people are uneducated on dog safety or children are not
properly supervised around dogs. In other cases, dogs are abused or mistreated
and become uncharacteristically aggravated or territorial. Abuse and mistreated
dogs can become easily agitated in otherwise normal circumstances and
some larger breeds can cause severe injury if they bite or attack.
Understanding a dog’s behavior and teaching children the proper and
safe way to behave around dogs can help reduce the likelihood of a dog
bite or dog attack.
Dog Bites at Home and the Family Dog
Dog bite incidents are reported to occur most frequently in the victim
and/or dog’s home. The majority of cases involve a family dog. Small
children at play may inadvertently injure or provoke a dog, resulting
in a bite. In these common cases, parents must know the risks of keeping
a dog with small children and must decide whether a bite incident warrants
separating the child and dog either temporarily or permanently.
Since nearly 75% of dog bites are associated with intact males, a strong
preventive measure for all male dogs is to ensure their dog is neutered.
Neutering greatly improves a male dog’s temperament and also prevents
any unintentional breeding – a growing problem contributing to the
number of stray and feral dogs in the US.
Dog Behavior-Based Safety Tips
- Dogs must be introduced to children. If a dog is present in the home before
a child is born, introduce a dog to a baby gradually.
- Always supervise babies and toddlers with a dog.
- Dogs may guard toys or food by instinct, which can lead to inadvertent bites.
- All dogs should be spayed or neutered as soon as they are old enough. These
procedures help to keep dogs from going into “heat”, an instinctive
mating state where aggression can lead to dog bites.
Safety Tips for Children and Dogs
Once a child is old enough to learn simple rules and instructions, begin
teaching and reinforcing a few simple (but potentially life-saving) rules
for dogs in the home and for encounters with dogs outside the home
- Never approach an unfamiliar dog on the street. Never approach another
dog in another person’s backyard without an adult present.
- Remain motionless if approached by an unfamiliar or stray dog and look
away from the dog.
- If knocked over by a dog, roll into a fetal position and lie still until
an adult comes over to help.
- Never play with a dog unless accompanied by a supervising adult.
- Be calm – always talk in a quiet voice or whisper and do not shout.
Dogs feed off of children’s high energy and can become over-excited
and may nip playfully.
- Children should be separated from a familiar dog and take a “time
out” if they feel angry, frustrated, or overwhelmed by the dog in any way.
- Never pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first. It is okay
to open your palm and let a familiar dog walk up and sniff it before petting
the dog. Pet a dog gently and be calm around the dog.
- Remember, dogs respond to energy – they will remain calm and submissive
around calm and generally quiet children.
- If bitten, immediately report the bite to an adult.
Dog Bites – Florida Department of Health Report
Dog Bite Law (Florida)