If a dog is a man’s best friend, then you’d be forgiven for thinking the same rule applies to children and dogs because this is not always the case.
While dogs can and do make great family pets and teach children things like responsibility and kindness, children and dogs should never be left unattended.
We’ll be examining the various reasons why throughout this article.
Dog Bite Statistics
The statistics can make the risks clearer than any argument we could make, so that’s where we’ll start.
In the United States alone, there are an estimated 4.7 million dog bites every year. This is actually a low estimate as dog ownership has increased since this study.
Of these 4.7 million people, a shocking 51% are children. A dog bite is the second most frequent cause of visits to emergency rooms for children.
This is in part because children are more likely to need medical attention than adults. But also because they are more likely to be severely injured from a dog bite than an adult.
Children aged between 5 and 9 years old are the most likely to be bitten according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
You might think these are random, unpreventable incidents. For example an aggressive dog off-leash at a park. But it’s not the case.
80% of dog bites happen at home. 77% of dogs involved in an incident belong to the family or a friend. This means most children are bitten by a dog they’re familiar with while doing everyday activities.
What these statistics show us is that dog bites happen frequently and children are the most at risk for being bitten, as well as severe injury.
In fact, in the worst-case scenario, a serious dog bite can lead to a fatality. In 2019, 16 children died from a dog attack in the United States.
The Cost of A Dog Bite
You might think that bar the initial scare, a dog bite isn’t that big of a deal. But dog bites come with a high price tag.
For starters, medical bills. The average cost of an inpatient hospital stay related to a dog bite is $18,200.
Many homeowners insurers are aware of the high risk of dog bites. The industry pays out around $797 million in liability claims a year. But many home insurers have a $1000 medical limit relating to dog bite injuries.
It’s not just the initial medical costs either. For more severe attacks, reconstructive surgery is necessary. More than 25,000 patients undergo reconstructive surgery due to dog bites a year.
There is also the lasting emotional damage a dog bite can cause. Even a relatively minor bite can cause severe phobias in children which can affect them for the rest of their lifetime.
For parents who need to stay home to look after their child due to the injury, lost earnings are a factor as well.
This can, of course, be claimed back in court by raising a personal injury claim to recover costs. You can read more about this here.
Any Dog Can Bite
It’s so easy to blame a bite on the breed of a dog. Pit Bulls in particular are the current media-frenzy to blame. But before them, it was Rottweilers and before them Dobermans.
The reason some breeds get a worse rep is because of the damage they can potentially inflict. Breeds like Pit Bulls or Rottweilers are large breeds with the potential to inflict more damage. Because of the status symbol that comes from guard dog breeds like this, they’re also often not trained well or bite trained.
While these breeds get the most attention, the reality is any dog can bite. From the friendly Golden Retriever to a tiny Chihuahua.
So if you’re thinking it’s okay because your dog is a “friendly-breed”, there is no such thing.
Children and Dogs: Ground Rules
It’s not all doom and gloom. Just because all dogs can bite doesn’t mean they will.
Children are more likely to be bitten by dogs because they don’t know how to interact with them. Human body language and dog body language are very different.
For example, when your toddler cuddles around the neck of your placid labrador, they’re showing them how much they love them. But pressure on the neck is a sign of aggression towards dogs, so your labrador feels under threat. It’s easy to see how these miscommunications can happen.
This is why the number one rule for children and dogs should be to never be left unattended together. It doesn’t matter if your child and dog have both known each other since birth. Both dogs and children are unpredictable and leaving them unattended is a recipe for disaster.
Other popular ground rules teach your children how to interact with dogs politely. These could include:
- No chasing each other
- No yelling near the dog
- Leave the dog alone when eating
- Leave the dog alone when sleeping
- Always ask permission before you pet someone’s dog
- Never put your hand through a fence to pet a dog
- Stay still and calm when greeting a new dog
Similarly, you can help your dog learn how to interact with children better. This includes teaching them basic commands like sit, wait, and down. This allows you to ensure your dog doesn’t get overexcitable so everyone can play safely.
You can also prepare your dog by introducing it to a variety of noises, smells, places, people, and environments as early as possible. The more confidence your dog has, the less likely it is to bite. Almost all bites are out of fear or anxiety.
What To Do If A Bite Happens
Even with the right supervision and good ground rules, bites can still happen. If your child is bitten, clean the wound with soap and water. You should also apply antiseptic cream to prevent infection.
For deeper wounds, your child should see a pediatrician or go to the emergency department. You also need to ensure the dog is up to date on its vaccinations as your child may need additional treatment if not.
It’s not all bad news, children and dogs can make great lifelong friends. But the best way to ensure this is with supervision and good ground rules for both your dog and your child.
Check out the rest of our blog for more helpful family advice!