Advice Column, Child, Health, Parenting, Pregnancy & Baby, Toddler, Tween & Teen

Preventing Dog Bites in Children

  • ChildSafe
  • Category Advice Column, Child, Health, Parenting, Pregnancy & Baby, Toddler, Tween & Teen

Every 3 days a child is treated for serious dog bites. In 2020, 107 children were treated for dog bites and these children were between the ages of 5 and 12 years. During this month of April ChildSafe is encouraging all parents and dog owners to be aware of the risks involved with dog bites and to learn about ways they can protect children and their families from dog bite incidents. 

“Dog bites often happen during everyday activities among children and seniors,” says Yolande Baker, Executive Director, ChildSafe. “Certain situations can be more conducive to the risk of a dog bite. Protect your family and yourself by being familiar with preventive measures that will minimize the risk of a dog bite.” 

How can you protect your family

Be cautious around strange dogs. Treat your own dog with respect. Because children are the most common victims of dog bites, parents and caregivers should:

  • NEVER leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
  • Be alert for potentially dangerous situations.
  • Teach children – including toddlers – to be careful around pets.
  • Children must learn not to approach strange dogs or try to pet dogs through fences.
  • Teach children to ask permission from the dog’s owner before petting the dog.

What’s a dog owner to do?

  • Carefully select your pet. Puppies should not be obtained on impulse.
  • Make sure your pet is socialized as a young puppy, so it feels at ease around people and other animals.
  • Do not put your dog in a position where it feels threatened or teased.
  • Be calm. Always talk in a quiet voice or whisper, no shouting. 
  • Train your dog. Basic commands help dogs understand what is expected of them and help build a bond of trust between pets and people.
  • Walk and exercise your dog regularly to keep it healthy and provide mental stimulation.
  • Avoid highly excitable games like wrestling or tug of war.
  • Use a leash in public to ensure you can control your dog.
  • Keep your dog healthy.
  • Have your dog vaccinated against rabies and other preventable infectious diseases.
  • Parasite control and other health care are important because how your dog feels affect how it behaves.
  • If you have a fenced yard, make sure your gates are secure.
  • Neuter your pet. Approximately 92% of fatal dog attacks involved male dogs, 94 percent of which were not neutered. 

Dog bite emergencies

If you are bitten, here is a checklist of things you should do:

  1. If the dog’s owner is present, request proof of rabies vaccination, and get the owner’s name and contact information.
  2. Clean the bite wound with soap and water as soon as possible.
  3. Consult your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room if it is after office hours.
  4. Contact the dog’s veterinarian to check vaccination records.

For more information on prevention of dog bites, call ChildSafe at 021 685 5208 or please visit www.childsafe.org.za

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