Over the past several years there have been several severe dog attacks in the UK; in August 2012 it was announced in a Press Release by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs that there are over 210 000 dog attacks in England alone per year, and that there had been 5 fatal dog attacks since 2007, 4 of which involved children.
Throughout 2013 and 2014 the attacks continued, with victims ranging from a 6-day old baby girl in Wales to a 79 year-old man in Liverpool, and as the frenzied debates about dangerous dogs continue, authorities have been forced to implement stricter laws for the owners of savage dogs, with punishments ranging from 3 to 14 years in prison for attacks.
The statistics are alarming and one thing is very clear; it’s our children at risk.
The vast majority of victims of dangerous dog attacks are children, while boys between the ages of 5 and 9 are statistically the group most likely to be maimed by a dog.
Yet for many people the family dog is a very close and revered member of the fold; England is a nation of dog lovers and while child safety undoubtedly comes first, many of us like to believe that it is possible to raise our dogs and children together without fear of attack.
Three of the most dangerous times when it comes to dog bites and children are when a dog is eating, playing or sleeping; we’ve put together tips for reducing the risk of a tragic or even fatal incident:
Mealtime is Sacred
Mealtimes should be deemed sacred and your child should be taught never to approach your dog while she’s eating; dogs can be very territorial when it comes to their food and an otherwise placid dog could become almost unrecognizable when his or her food supply is disturbed.
Always be sure that an adult feeds the dog and never allow a child to attempt to play with a dog’s food; this extends also to snacks and/or chew toys.
While play is a natural activity for dogs and many delight in it, there are dogs who get entirely too whipped up and overwrought during noisy and/or rambunctious play.
Always supervise very carefully when your dog and your child are playing together and ensure that if things appear to be getting too frenzied you remove your child from the mix; in all the safest option is to avoid any play that involves close bodily contact such as wrestling; if your child should accidentally hurt your dog, it could end in a serious bite.
Never Approach a Sleeping Dog
Your child should be taught never to approach the dog while he or she is sleeping; always keep the dog’s sleeping area safely away from mainstream areas in a quiet, peaceful spot.
Disturbing the dog during sleep could result in a bad reaction, for example if the dog is awakened suddenly from a nightmare, he could attack in fright.
While these are the three most vital times to monitor your child and your dog carefully, there are other circumstances in which a child should be taught never to approach a dog:
- If the dog is unfamiliar
- If the dog is showing signs of aggression, no matter how subtle; these signs can range from a showing of teeth to backing away and/or a raising of hair on the back
- If the dog has been involved in an unpleasant encounter; approaching a dog after a traumatic incident such as a dog fight or a car accident can result in the dog reacting in pain or fright
While these are very direct ways to avoid a nasty situation between your child and your dog, there are other, more subtle steps you can take to keep things running smoothly:
Spay or Neuter
With male dogs in particular, neutering can be highly instrumental in minimizing aggression, which is vital to any form of healthy contact with humans.
Keep Your Dog Healthy
Be sure to keep your dog’s health in check with regular visits to the veterinarian; just like a human, if a dog is feeling sick or unhealthy, he or she may lash out in pain. Ensuring you have pet insurance means you won’t have too many money hassles if the pet needs care – so always prepare in advance.
Obedience training is a must-have for any family that plans to raise their dog and their children together, regardless of the size of the dog; even in small dogs, bites can be severe and result in painful infection or worse, so regardless of the size of your dog, obedience training is vital.
Research Your Breed
We’ve all heard the raging debates about certain breeds of dog and their statistical likelihood to attack; before bringing a dog into your life, be sure to do your research and analyze the chances that your intended breed will be a good fit for your family.
There are a number of steps you can take to minimize the risk of your dog attacking a human, whether grown up or child, and responsible dog ownership demands that these steps be taken; above all, while we all know and love our pets, never presume to know how your dog will react in all situations and never, under any circumstances, leave your child alone with your dog.
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