Prevent Dog Bite Injuries: Tips to Consider


Kristi WestphalnFor me, summer means more time outside exploring with my favorite furry friend – my basset hound Droopy Grouper! Droopy Grouper has been in my family for five years and was a gift after I graduated from my Nurse Practitioner Program at UCLA. He continues to be one of my best friends and he inspired this blog entry as I am saddened every time I see a child who is injured by a dog bite, especially during my time as a pediatric nurse practitioner with the Division of Pediatric Surgery at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Dogs are compassionate creatures and I remain eternally optimistic that awareness and education will help families experience the joy of a dog with decreased risk for injury, like dog bites. With 2.4 million kids injured by dog bites per year, I hope this post will help you understand the basics of child and dog behavior so that your family remains injury-free and does not become a statistic! Continue reading for tips to prevent dog bites as well as steps to take if your child is injured from a dog bite.

My basset hound, Droopy Grouper!

Contrary to popular belief, did you know a majority of dog bites are actually from the family or the neighbors’ dog? Many dog bites are not life threatening, but can result in both physical and emotional trauma from wounds, scars, fear of dogs or the dog may be given away or put to sleep. These consequences can have negative a impact on your child and the entire family environment.

Creating a Safe Relationship between a Dog and Your Child

By having a basic understanding of dog and child behavior, everyone can become an advocate in protecting children from bite injuries and preserving the friendship between humans and dogs. Friendly relationships of dogs and kids are common and something I see often. For example, the patients at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles instantly feel a friendship when volunteer dogs from the hospital’s Amerman Family Foundation Dog Therapy Program visit!

Responsible dog ownership is essential in preventing dog bites. It’s important for adults to make good choices regarding dog adoption or puppy purchase, participating in training activities, socialization, obtaining appropriate licensure, spay and neutering and keeping the dog appropriately restrained. There are also certain things to consider when you or your child is interacting with dogs.

Tips for Interacting with Dogs, both Familiar and Stranger 

  1. Always monitor your child’s playtime with a dog. A dog may attempt to assert dominance over a small child due to their small size. If this happens separate your child and the dog immediately and check your child for any injuries.
  2. Remind your child to tell you or the closest adult if they are bitten by a dog.
  3. Display good dog manners by allowing a non-familiar dog to sniff your child’s hand before petting.
  4. Limit loud noises or screaming.
  5. Use caution when approaching a dog that is eating or near their food.
  6. Use caution when approaching a dog with her puppies.
  7. Use caution when approaching an injured or older dog.
  8. Remain still as a statue when approached by a “stranger” dog.
  9. Avoid direct eye contact with dogs.
  10. Avoid quick movements while close to a dog. This could startle them.
  11. Avoid overly rough play.
  12. Avoid pulling a dog’s tail and ears.
  13. Do not suddenly wake up a dog from sleep
  14. Do not take away food or treats away from the dog.
  15. Do not approach a dog whose fur is standing up, growling, snarling or is barking.
  16. Spaying and neutering your dog may also decrease its aggressive tendencies.

Helping Your Child after a Dog Bite Injury

Safety is the most important priority! Separate your child from the dog immediately. Use caution while attempting separation because an angry or scared dog might attempt to bite you too. Inspect your child closely to assess the degree of injury and plan to have the child evaluated by a health care provider. Consider calling 911 if:

  • Your child is having difficulty breathing.
  • Your child is bleeding a lot.
  • Your child’s injuries are severe.

If the owner of the dog is present, it is also helpful to find out the immunization status of the animal, including rabies status. Dogs and people have a long history of being best friends.  For example, many families keep dogs as pets. Dogs provide help to people who cannot see and use their noses to help law enforcement such as the police find evidence and suspects. Dogs keep us company, cheer us up, make us laugh and my hound often attempts to fly with his great big floppy ears.

I’ve shared a little bit about my dog, Droopy Grouper; I would love to hear your most special moments with your dog! Please leave a comment below.