Every year, approximately 4.7 million people in the US are bitten by dogs, with children between the ages of five and nine the most likely to be bitten. Seventy percent of fatal dog bite cases involve children.
All dogs—even well-trained, gentle dogs—are capable of biting when provoked. This could include when they're eating, sleeping, caring for puppies or when an unexpected stranger, such as a delivery driver, approaches the house.
The good news is that dog bites can be prevented! To help prevent bites, the National Dog Bite Prevention Coalition offers the following advice:
- Never leave babies or children unsupervised with dogs, even with family pets. More than 50% of all dog-related injuries are to children, and for kids under four, often those bites are to the head and neck region. Use caution when bringing a dog or puppy into the home of an infant or toddler. Read our tips about introducing a pet to a baby. If your child seems fearful or apprehensive about having a dog, it is probably wise to delay bringing one into your home.
- Make sure your pet is healthy. Not all illnesses and injuries are obvious, and dogs are more likely to bite if they are sick or in pain. If you haven't been to the veterinarian in a while, schedule an appointment for a checkup to discuss your dog's physical and behavioral health.
- Take it slow. If your dog has been mainly interacting with your family since you brought them home, don't rush out into crowded areas or dog parks. Try to expose your dogs to new situations slowly and for short periods of time, arrange for low-stress interactions, and give plenty of praise and rewards for good behavior.
- Properly socialize and train your dog. Educate yourself in positive training techniques and devote time to interact with your dog. Be responsible about approaching other people's pets. Dogs who spend a lot of time alone or chained up can become dangerous. Dogs who are well-socialized, well-trained, and supervised are more likely to interact safely with adults and children.
- Ask permission from the owner before approaching a dog, and look for signs that the dog wants to interact with you. Sometimes dogs want to be left alone, and we need to recognize and respect that. Make sure that you are walking your dog on a leash and recognize changes in your dog's body language indicating they may not be comfortable.
- Always monitor your dog's activity, even when they are in the backyard at your own house, because they can be startled by something, get out of the yard and possibly injure someone or be injured themselves.
Keep Your Children Safe
Teach your children basic dog safety:
- Never approach an unfamiliar dog, especially one who’s tethered or confined behind a fence or in a car.
- Never play with a dog unless supervised by an adult.
- Do not tease or chase any dog.
- Do not disturb a dog who is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
- Ask permission from the owner before petting a dog.
- Do not pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.
- Never turn your back and run away from a dog. Don't scream.
- Be Still Like A Tree: Trees are boring to dogs. When approached by an unfamiliar dog, remain motionless with your hands at your sides or folded in front of you. Moving your hands above your head encourages the dog to jump. Do not make eye contact with the dog. If you believe a dog is about to lunge at you, try to place something between yourself and the dog, such as a backpack or a bicycle.
- If knocked down by a dog, roll into a ball and protect your face with your hands.
- If bitten, immediately report the bite to an adult.
If Your Dog Does Bite, Take Responsible Actions
- Confine your dog immediately. Check on the victim and seek medical attention.
- Provide the victim with important information, such as the date of your dog’s last rabies vaccination. Without a current rabies vaccination on record, your dog likely faces a quarantine.
- Cooperate with the animal control official. Strictly follow any quarantine requirements.
- Seek professional help to prevent your dog from biting again. Consult with your veterinarian, who may refer you to an animal behaviorist or a dog trainer. Your community animal control agency or humane society may also offer helpful services.
National Dog Bite Prevention Week is the second week in April each year.
Updated: April 4, 2023