Q: Now that the weather is getting warmer and children are out in the street, dog bites must become a concern.
A: I am afraid so. Nearly 800,000 people are seen for medical treatment of dog bites every year, which obviously doesn't include those treated at home. Children are commonly bitten more badly because, being short, they are more likely to be bitten on the face or head. They are also more likely to behave inappropriately with dogs. Consequently, children are often bitten by their own family dog or by dogs belonging to relatives. Grandmas sometimes have grouchy old dogs. Add to that the warming weather makes it a good time to bring home a new dog- or an older dog from the shelters which are crowded with adoptable dogs – so lots of adjusting all around.
Q: What can parents do to make these unfortunate events less common?
A: First, pick your own pets wisely. Breed temperament varies widely. I would avoid the breeds generally thought as guard dogs, such as Dobermans and Rottweilers, though in experienced hands they may be fine house pets. Check with your vet if you are thinking about an unfamiliar breed. Teach your children not to approach a strange dog or a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies. They need to learn to pet a dog on the shoulder, and only after the owner gives permission. These are complex learned behaviors, so most vets would urge waiting until your kids are at least 4 years of age before bringing a dog home. We have much less control when we bring a new child home to the old dog.
Q: How can an owner reduce the risk of bites?
A: Vets recommend neutering a dog you plan to be a long- term pet. Neutered dogs are much less aggressive. Obviously a dog needs standard training and experience with people under controlled conditions. Keep your dog's rabies shots up to date and take care of health problems as they arise. An uncomfortable dog is more likely to bite. Avoid situations where you think your dog will feel unsafe or get overly excited, and if you have a dog that bites, use a muzzle when you take him out. Done well, bringing a dog into your home is a wonderful experience for the dog and the child, but it takes planning and consistent effort. A very nice link on the Humane Society website is listed below.
Helpful Link: http:// www.americanhumane.org/children/child-welfare-news/free-book-helps-families.html how to introduce a new dog into your family or a new child to your old dog!