Preventing dog bites

Photo Credit: File photo

Half of all children in the United States will be bitten by a dog before their 12th birthday.

That's according to the ASPCA, a group that helps prevent cruelty to animals.

It also reports 800,000 of those bites require medical treatment, and it estimates one to two million bites go unreported.

In this KHQA Safe Family report, we show you some ways your child can avoid becoming one of those statistics.

A dog barks for many reasons...some out of fear, some out of curiosity, some out of happiness. And many times a dog's bark can be worse than its bite. But you want to avoid that bite if at all possible.

"Never approach a dog that's on a chain," says Sally Westerhoff.

Sally Westerhoff is the Executive Director of the Quincy Humane Society. We asked her to show us how to behave around a strange dog.

"Never approach a dog that's sleeping and pet it. Never approach a dog that's eating and pet it," says Westerhoff.

When approaching a strange dog, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. First, if it's on a leash, ask its owner if it's okay to pet. If you get the go ahead from the owner, start with your hand. Make a closed fist, and let the dog sniff the backside of your hand. The dog with lick or nudge your hand if it decides you can pet it.

"If the dog freezes, growls, hard stares, does the lifting of the lip, I would definitely back off and not approach the dog," says Westerhoff.

Here's another tip about greeting a dog that deals with your face. Never stare directly into the dog's eyes. That can be seen as a form of aggression. It's also not a good idea to smile at a dog.

"Smiling at a strange dog can be perceived as bearing your teeth at the dog. That can be perceived as an aggressive behavior toward it," says Westerhoff.

The final tip is never run from a dog. Dogs will instinctively chase you, and let's face it they have four legs, you have two, so chances are it will catch you.

"We always teach children to stop, drop, and roll. If a dog is chasing you, stop, drop to the ground, curl up into a ball. Cover your head, scream and protect yourself as best you can," says Westerhoff.

A dog will usually give you plenty of warning that it's going to bite. That may be in the form of a growl or showing its teeth. If that's the case, calmly walk away from the dog without turning your back.

If you or your child is bitten by a dog, make sure and report it.

Animal control and the local Health Department needs to be notified.

In most cases, the dog will be quarantined for ten days to see if it's sick.

The veterinarian has to assess the dog at the beginning and the end of that ten day period before it's released.