More than half of the victims of serious dog bites are kids! Kids have to learn about dog safety. Parents have to teach it to them. And it needs to be taught in school.
The American Humane Society says that children must learn the following basics about dog safety:
- Never approach an unknown dog or a dog that is alone without its owner, and always ask the owner’s permission before petting it.
- Never approach an injured animal – go find an adult who can get it the help it needs.
- Never approach a dog that is eating, sleeping, nursing or has something it likes – like a bone or toy.
- Don’t poke, hit, pull, pinch or tease a dog – the dog may not realize you’re just playing.
- Don’t chase or run from a dog.
The consequences of not teaching our kids can be severe. In 2006, a 2-1/2 year old boy who was in day care reached out to pet something that looked like a dog, and ended up being mauled and having his skull fractured by what was actually a dingo (read the article). This was a freak accident, of course — dingos in the USA are rare — but it might have been prevented if the child had been taught to avoid unknown animals unless given specific permission to approach or touch them.
Veterinarians and pediatricians should address strategies for bite prevention, including the need for appropriate supervision of children. Other strategies include dissemination of information on preventing bites, school-based educational programs on bite prevention and canine behavior, and educational programs regarding responsible dog selection, ownership, and training. For example, the American Humane Society sells “American Humane KIDS: Kids Interacting with Dogs Safely™ Curriculum Set with Coloring Books.” It provides fun lessons for 4- to 7-year-olds that not only teach safety around dogs, but also incorporate character education. This is a subject that needs to be taught in schools.