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Preventing Dog Bite Injuries – What you should know about dog behavior

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Posted on March 19, 2014

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)

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