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To millions of Americans, their dog is a crucial member of their family. As such loving and loyal creatures, it’s hard to imagine these beloved companions would ever be capable of harming another person. But with approximately one-third of all U.S. homes having a dog as a pet, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that severe dog bites are a common everyday occurrence.

Alarmingly, over 50% of dog bite victims are children – and 26% of them require an emergency room or doctor visit. The CDC estimates that a dog has bitten half of all children 12 and under. In most cases, the child teases or unintentionally provokes the dog, such as by approaching a dog who is eating or sleeping. The majority of dog bites and attacks on kids are from a dog that the child is acquainted with – sometimes even their own pet.

If you wish to teach your child how to be around dogs safely, try to keep it simple. Explain the role of animals in your family and how you relate to them, not just how to avoid a bite. Educating your kids about the importance of respecting dogs and when to give them space will help ensure they avoid serious injuries.

Dog safety tips to teach your children

  • Avoid unknown dogs – especially if they are alone and unsupervised. Tell your child to avoid unfamiliar dogs and consider calmly leaving the area to stay safe.
  • Never pet a dog without asking for permission from the owner first. Shy or anxious dogs may not feel comfortable being pet by strangers.
  • If confronted by an aggressive dog, teach your kid not to run, scream, hit or make sudden movements towards the dog. These actions could escalate the situation.
  • Instruct your child to stand tall, still and quiet if a dog goes after them. By remaining frozen and avoiding eye contact, it will communicate to the dog they don’t wish to engage, and the dog should lose interest.
  • If a dog knocks your child over, teach them to roll into a ball and protect their head and neck with their arms.
  • Teach your kid not to tease, pull, climb or try to ride on a dog.
  • Don’t let your child approach a dog who is eating or sleeping.
  • Teach gentle, respectful interactions

While it’s not always possible for your child to anticipate a dog bite, teaching them how to behave calmly around dogs will ensure their safety this summer.