Summertime is active time – particularly for kids. There are camps, trips to the pool, neighborhood pickup games of just about every sport, tag, catching lightning bugs – you name it. All of the activity is great for staying healthy and creating fantastic summer memories, but when overly-excited kids encounter overly-excited dogs, bites can happen.
Staff in the FMH Pediatric Emergency Department and at Frederick County Animal Control agree they see more dog bites in the summer than any other time of year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year and about one in five (885,000) require medical attention for their injuries. Dog bite rates are decreasing for children, but they’re highest between the ages of five and nine.
First things first: any dog can bite, even the sweetest, most tolerant ones. Dogs that bite aren’t inherently bad; they’re simply reacting to a stressful situation [Tweet this!]. That may mean they’re startled or scared, they aren’t feeling well, or playtime got a little out of hand. In fact, more often than not bites occur between dogs and their family members or other people they know.
Prevention and Safety Tips
Use these recommendations from the CDC and American Veterinary Medical Foundation to lessen the risk of dog bites:
- Never leave infants or very young children alone with a dog.
- Teach your children to ask permission from a dog’s owner before approaching his or her dog.
- Don’t play aggressive games with your dog (e.g. wrestling).
- Spay or neuter your dog (said to reduce some aggressive tendencies).
- Properly socialize and train your dog. Find a dog trainer in the Frederick area.
- Talk to your veterinarian or an animal behaviorist immediately if your dog develops aggressive behaviors.
When you’re with a dog, remember these tips (and be sure to share these with your kids!):
- Don’t run past a dog. Dogs naturally love to chase and catch things. Don’t give them a reason to get over-excited or aggressive.
- Don’t disturb a dog that’s caring for puppies, sleeping, or eating.
- Don’t pet a dog without letting him or her see and sniff you first.
- Never reach through or over a fence to pet a dog. Dogs can be protective of their territory and could misinterpret your kind gesture as a threat.
- If a dog approaches to sniff you, stay still. It’s extremely likely the dog is just checking you out (and may be sniffing to see if you have food or treats!). Generally, he or she will get a good sniff and move on.
If you’re threatened by a dog, do your best to remain calm. Avoid eye contact and stay still until the dog leaves, or back away slowly until the dog is out of sight. Don’t scream, yell, or turn and run.
Responding to a Dog Bite
Follow these steps if you witness a dog bite:
- Restrain the dog immediately and remove it from the area. This is best handled by the dog’s owner, if he or she is available.
- Check on the victim. Wash any minor wounds with soap and water and consider seeing your doctor to evaluate the risk of infection. If wounds are severe, call 911 and get the victim to a hospital.
- If the dog is yours, provide information including your name, address and the dog’s most recent rabies vaccination. Be sure to comply with any local ordinances regarding reporting of dog bites.