Adding a canine friend to the family brings the risk of dog bites in children. According to The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, around 13,000 people each year attend hospital emergency departments in Australia for dog bite injuries.
Most dog bites to children are caused by the family dog (33%) or a dog known to the family. Children under the age of five are most at risk and are most frequently bitten by their own family dog or by a friend’s dog, usually in or around the home.
Incidents are commonly triggered by a child’s interaction with the dog such as playing or approaching the dog while it is sleeping or eating. Dogs are incredibly tolerant but even the most relaxed and calm adult dog will only put up with so much prodding and unwanted attention from young children.
Tips to prevent dog bites in children
- Supervision of every interaction between young children and a pup is key to preventing dog bites!
- Slow, step by step introductions between your child and a new puppy or adult dog
- Set the house rules on how to interact with the puppy, such do not approach the dog while he is sleeping or eating
- Crate train your pup so he has a safe and happy place to escape enthusiastic toddlers
- Dogs are communicating with us all the time. They will give off many avoidance signals before actually biting. Learn how to read dog body language, take action when your pup is showing signs of stress.
Best time to get a dog for your child to reduce the risk
Dr Gaille Perry, Delta Institute says the best time to get a puppy for your child depends on the level of maturity of the child and the willingness of the parents to supervise. But if you want a blanket number I’d go for school age, bearing in mind that the age group most likely to be bitten goes up to nine years old. Impulsive kids of any age should not be left unsupervised with dogs.
Dr Katrina Warren (Wonderdogs Tricks & Training) says young children should not be left unsupervised with puppies as they often excite them which, in turn, initiates nipping. If you have a toddler and a puppy, you must actively supervise (staying within an arm’s length) or separate them.
According to Peteducation.com, by the time children are seven or older, some of them are ready to start to develop a rewarding relationship with a dog. Remember, no young child is capable of properly training or completely caring for a dog, so the parent must always ultimately take full responsibility for the pet.