An estimated 35 percent of American households and 25 percent of UK households own dogs. Many children enjoy growing up with a dog as a family pet. Despite the fact that the vast majority of dogs are friendly, parents must be aware that a dog bite can cause serious injury to a child.
There are a number of reasons why a normally docile dog might suddenly attack. Or, a dog may just be enthusiastic and unintentionally hurt a child while playing.
Whatever the scenario, a dog bite can be a serious problem and parents should address potential dangers to keep children safe. Our aim is to provide you with some safety advice so you can continue to enjoy your dog and protect your children.
While your dog may have never bitten anyone, the statistics show that dog bites are relatively common.
In the United States, there are an estimated 4.5 million dog-bite incidents every year (according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and hospital records). Dog bites account for nearly 10,000 hospital admissions in the UK and, sadly, there have been 25 deaths attributed to dog attacks in Australia since 2000.
Figures available for the United States give us a good idea of what's taking place in homes around the globe where domesticated dogs are part of the fabric of family life.
Some states have legislation restricting or prohibiting the ownership of certain dangerous breeds, primarily pit bulls. There's evidence supporting the theory that certain breeds of dog are more dangerous than others. Remember, however, that any breed of dog can bite and cause a serious injury.
If you're considering getting a dog, check the laws in your area for any breed restrictions or prohibitions first. Here are the ten breeds most likely to be banned based on statistics from around the world.
This list is simply a review of dog breeds that are thought to be dangerous. It's not exhaustive. Organizations such as the American Humane Society support responsible breeding and ownership, which along with education, are the best ways of reducing the number of dog bite incidents.
Around half of all recorded dog attacks involve children under 12 years of age. And approximately 80 percent of dog bites that are treated at hospitals in the United States involve children under 15 years old.
These numbers increase dramatically for children between 5 and 9 years old, and boys are more likely than girls to be bitten. Dogs and unsupervised children are never a good mix, no matter how well behaved your dog normally is.
The chances of a dog biting your child can be reduced by following some simple advice.
Education is the key to preventing a dog bite. Children who are taught how to act around and safely play with dogs are much less likely to be bitten.
Supervision is also paramount. Children should always be supervised when they're around dogs. Almost all fatal dog attacks occur when a child is left unsupervised.
Here's a list of rules to review with your children to ensure they enjoy a safe and happy relationship with dogs:
Consider spaying or neutering your dog
Neutering helps reduce aggression, especially in males. Un-neutered dogs are more than twice as likely to bite than neutered dogs. Female dogs that are in heat or nursing their puppies are more dangerous than spayed females, and their behavior can be unpredictable.
Talk to your veterinarian or local humane organization or animal shelter for information on low-cost spay/neuter assistance.
Always supervise your dog
Dogs that are left on their own may feel uncertain and defensive, or they might become overly confident.
Train and socialize your dog
Ensure that your dog interacts well with people and other dogs. Teach it good manners in the home and in public. Basic training is as important for the owner as it is for the dog, and socialization is the key to a well-adjusted adult dog.
It's essential that puppies between 8 and 16 weeks old are exposed to a variety of people, places, dogs, and other animals. As dogs age, continue to expose them to these things to ensure they are well socialized throughout their lives.
Restraining your dog may be necessary
Twenty-four percent of fatal dog attacks involve loose dogs that are off their owner's property. Dogs that are allowed to roam beyond the yard may see your entire neighborhood as their "territory" and defend it aggressively.
By obeying local leash laws and properly containing your dog within the boundaries of your property, you will not only be respecting the laws in your community, but will also be keeping your dog safe from cars, other dogs and unforeseen dangers.
Don't chain your dog
Despite the fact that you need to restrain your dog and make sure that it knows its boundaries, it is not a good idea to keep it chained up.
Chained dogs are nearly three times more likely to bite, as tethering or chaining dogs increases their stress levels, protectiveness and vulnerability, thereby increasing the potential for aggression. Fencing is a much better solution.
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