Safety Tips for Protecting Children Around Dogs
Young kids often get very excited about dogs, whether it’s seeing a family pet, going to visit a family member’s pet, or getting to see a dog they don’t know being walked around the neighborhood. But as exciting as dogs can be, it’s extremely important for parents and other caretakers to be very careful about supervising children as they’re introduced to dogs and spend time with them.
Anyone can become a dog bite victim, but young children represent a disproportionately large amount of all dog bite victims. According to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, over 50% of all dog bite victims are children and children are more likely than adults to require medical treatment for dog bite injuries (26% of children vs. 12% of adults). So what can parents (and other caretakers) do to help keep young children safe around dogs?
Teaching Children to Approach Pets Safely
When young kids are excited, they often tend to show that excitement by making noise or jumping around. But dogs don’t necessarily always understand this and may interpret that noise and movement as a threat. That’s why it’s so important to teach children to approach animals quietly and gently so they don’t get startled.
When meeting a new dog, this should start with asking for permission to approach the dog. If it’s okay to approach the dog, let the child know to approach the dog slowly and start by letting the dog sniff their hand. When petting the dog, teach children to pet gently without pulling on them and avoiding areas like the dog’s eyes, nose, mouth, or ears. Let them know to approach a dog from the front, not from behind.
When Not to Pet a Dog
As important as it is to know how to pet a dog, it’s every bit as important to know when not to pet a dog. There are times when even dogs that are ordinarily friendly may be prone to lashing out, such as if they are sick or taking care of their puppies. Dogs can also be more prone to aggressive behavior if they are eating, playing with a toy, or sleeping, so children should be warned not to approach dogs that are engaged in those activities. For example, some dogs tend to be possessive about their toys and may not react well if a child tries to grab a toy that the dog is playing with. The child may have good intentions, but there’s a chance that a dog might not understand that. Instead, teach the child that it’s best to wait for a dog to bring a toy to them.
One thing people often misunderstand about dog bites is how they most commonly occur. Very often, they tend to think of people being bitten by stray dogs roaming around a neighborhood, but the reality is that 77% of dog bites involve a dog the victim knew, most commonly occurring in places where parents may let their guard down: in the victim’s home or in the home of a friend of the victim.
Since so many dog bites involve dogs the victim was familiar with, it’s very important to keep a close eye on children while they play with dogs, even if it is just the family pet. When children feel comfortable around a dog, they might forget about some of the basic steps for safely approaching and petting dogs, like petting gently and not sneaking up on a sleeping dog.
When Babies are Involved
All of these tips are great for kids who are old enough to be mobile, but what about if you have an infant who isn’t ready to learn how to safely interact with dogs just yet? If your child is still in the infant stage, it’s best to keep the dog out of the room if the baby is exploring on the floor. And if they’re old enough to be crawling, make sure you have baby gates in place to prevent the baby from crawling into a room with the dog. And, as always, make sure to closely supervise anytime the dog and the baby are in the same room together.
Contact a Michigan Dog Bite Lawyer
Sometimes, dog bites happen even if you do everything you can to stay safe. Dog owners have the most power to prevent dog attacks and if they don’t take reasonable steps to prevent an injury, they could be liable for damage. Michigan has a strict liability dog bite law which holds pet owners liable for injuries their pets cause, even if the dog doesn’t have a history of aggressive behavior.
If you’ve been injured by a dog attack in the state of Michigan, Goodwin & Scieszka is here to help. Contact us to talk to a dog bite lawyer who can help you understand your legal options and work with you to move forward with your claim.
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