Dog Safety Guide For Parents

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.

Dog Bites - A Look At The Statistics

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.

Key Numbers

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.

  • About 885,000 dog bites require medical care

  • Approximately 92 percent of fatal dog attacks involved male dogs, of which 94 percent had not been neutered

  • An estimated 25 percent of fatal dog attacks involved chained dogs

  • Just over 70 percent of bites occur to the extremities (arms, legs, hands, and feet)

  • Two-thirds of bites occurred on or near the victim's property and most victims knew the dog that bit them

  • The insurance industry pays out more than $1 billion in dog-bite claims each year

  • At least 25 different breeds of dogs have been involved in the 238 dog-bite-related fatalities in the United States

  • Approximately 24 percent of human deaths involved unrestrained dogs off of their owners' property, and around 58 percent of human deaths involved unrestrained dogs on their owners' property


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.

Is Your Dog One of the Top 10 Dangerous Breeds?

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.

  1. American Pit Bull Terrier
    Perhaps the most notorious and polarizing of all breeds is the American Pit Bull Terrier. Regardless of whether you think they are inherently dangerous or not, they are banned in many countries around the world, including Canada and a number of states in the U.S.

  2. Japanese Tosa Inu
    The Japenese Tos Inu is an indigenous mix of several Japanese and Western breeds. It was traditionally bred for fighting and is banned in a number of countries, including parts of Scandinavia (Norway and Denmark).

  3. Fila Brasiliero
    The Fila Brasiliero is the Brazilian equivalent of the Mastiff and is banned in the UK.

  4. Preso Canaria
    The Preso Canaria is a massive fighting dog from the Canary Islands in Spain. Two of them attacked and killed a person in San Francisco in 2001; the owner was subsequently convicted of second-degree murder. Not surprisingly, the breed is banned in a number of countries, including New Zealand and Australia.

  5. Dogo Argentino
    The Dogo has been used for fighting and is similar in appearance to a large Pit Bull. It is banned in at least 10 countries, including Australia.

  6. Boerboel
    The Boerboel originates from South Africa. Despite its reputation for not being overly aggressive and good with children, it is banned in some countries.

  7. Wolfdog
    The Wolfdog has a varied genetic structure, which makes its behavior difficult to predict; therefore it is not considered a good pet for children.

  8. Neapolitan Mastiff
    Once used as a gladiator dog, the Neapolitan Mastiff was famously used to portray Fang in the Harry Potter movies. It is illegal to own one in certain places. In Romania a person must be declared psychologically sound to own one.

  9. Bandog
    The modern Bandog is not a purebred and could be a cross between an American Pit Bull and various Mastiffs. Bandogs are restricted anywhere there are restrictions on its parent breeds.

  10. American Bulldog
    These dogs are particularly dangerous when cornered and have a very high pain threshold. This makes them great fighters, but difficult to contain if things go wrong.

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.

Dangers to Children

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.

Advice for Parents

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.

Dog Safety Rules for Kids

Here's a list of rules to review with your children to ensure they enjoy a safe and happy relationship with dogs:

  • Always treat your dog with kindness.

  • Never hit, kick, slap or bite a dog, or pull on its ears, tail or paws.

  • Leave the dog alone if it is doing something else.

  • Never bother a dog that has puppies, a dog that is playing with or guarding toys, or a dog that is eating or sleeping.

  • Always leave service dogs alone while they are working.

  • Do not approach a dog that you don't know without asking the owner first.

  • Never approach a dog that is tied up, behind a fence, or in a car.

  • If you find a dog that is lost, call the police or animal control.

  • If you want to pet a dog, ask the owner for permission. If the owner says it's OK, hold out your hand in a fist for the dog to sniff. If he shows interest, you can scratch him under the chin and say hello. Don't pet the top of his head.

  • Stay calm. It will help the dog stay calm too.

  • Always talk in a quiet voice or whisper. Don't shout. Take a "time out" if you feel angry or frustrated, as the dog will pick up on your negative attitude.

  • If you are suddenly in a vulnerable position with an aggressive dog, keep as still as possible.

  • If a loose dog approaches you, stand still like a tree. Keep your hands at your sides and stay quiet and calm. Look away from the dog rather than directly at it.

  • If you are on the ground, curl up into a ball. Stay quiet and calm. Look down at your knees, not at the dog.

  • Move slowly, set things down carefully, and don't run when you're around dogs, as this gets them excited; they may give chase and accidentally hurt you.

Safety Advice for Dog Owners

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.

Resources for additional information:

American Humane KIDS: Kids Interacting with Dogs Safely
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control
RSPCA - Dogs and Children
Kid Friendly Dog Breeds

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