The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates half of all children 12 years-of-age and under have been bitten by a dog. Seventy nine percent of fatal dog attacks are on children. Over eighty seven percent of dog bite fatalities involving children occurred when the child was left unsupervised with a dog or the child wandered off to the location of the dog. Even small breeds such as Dachshunds and Pomeranians have attacked children resulting in fatalities.
Scary statistics so let’s get real! Often times as a canine behaviorist my private sessions with clients and dogs take place in public places. If a dog is aggressive every precaution is taken to ensure the safety of the public through the use of a muzzle. This last weekend I was working with a German Shepherd with fear aggression issues at a public location. Despite the fact that the dog was muzzled I had parents allowing children to approach the dog. One was a crawling infant and the parents kept bringing the child closer and closer to crawl to the dog while we moved further and further away. We had to tell them that the dog was not friendly and to please stop approaching us. Then we had two little boys start to approach the dog while the mother watched. Again, we backed up waiting for the mother to respond but to no avail. She had to be told to stop allowing her children to pursue the dog. The dog was wearing a highly visible muzzle, and yet the parents were allowing their children to pursue the dog. It was mind boggling.
I have also done sessions with dogs that have never been exposed to children so they are wary of them. This is not uncommon since many dogs are wary of infants and toddlers because they move quickly and are unpredictable and frankly they smell like food. So you can have the friendliest dog in the world approached by a toddler and have the dog react defensively which could result in a bite.
The picture above shows my 4 year old with our dog and I took this picture to show where the mouth of a large dog comes when a toddler approaches a dog. I don’t know about you but I don’t want my toddler approaching a dog no matter how friendly the owner says the dog is when my toddler’s face is right at bite level.
Teach your children to respect dogs and give them space. Teach your children not to corner dogs or pursue dogs. Have them admire them from a distance. My toddler knows most of the breeds now due to my profession and we enjoy sitting at the park watching the dogs go by as we identify them. She loves dogs and has a healthy appreciation for them. I know too many adults who were bitten as children by dogs and never recovered emotionally. A dog bite to a child is deadly to the dog and if not deadly to the child will leave deep emotional scars for the rest of their life. Please keep kids safe by teaching them to keep safe boundaries when it comes to all dogs. Together we can reduce dog bite statistics.