Young children are the most likely victims of dog bites and these are most likely to occur from a dog they know in their own, a relative’s or friend’s home. Over the past few years this fact has attracted considerable research interest. Despite this, most dog bite programs have focused on preparing children to interact with unfamiliar dogs outside their homes.
There have been many studies that suggest that living with companion animals is good for us. This is particularly so for children - if they are exposed to animals in the first year of life they are less likely to develop allergies in childhood. Children, especially those without siblings develop greater empathy, higher self-esteem, and increased participation in social and physical activities when there is a pet in the home.
Sadly, though, it’s not all positive! Several studies have examined dog bites to children and found that the majority of dog bites occur in the child’s home or that of their immediate or extended family. Children are most likely to be bitten by small dogs indoors if they disturb the dog resting or sleeping, tease the dogs or if they accidentally hurt them. For medium and large dogs bites mostly occur outdoors when they are being stroked.
The younger the child, they less likely that they can accurately recognise the dog’s emotional state as calm, friendly or frightened. Surprisingly, when parents were tested, it was found that a significant number were also unable to differentiate.
It is important therefore that education for parents include, not just appropriate supervision of dogs and children, but also interpretation of the dog’s body language. This is particularly important for parents of very young children who are not able to make these decisions for themselves. Older children also need to be taught safe interaction with their own dog at home rather than, as has been common, how to approach unfamiliar dogs when they are out.
Don't forget you can always think about getting your pup a new chew toy to while away the time, too. We have some good deals on the likes of Kong toys on BHG Shop.