According to the Humane Society of the United States, more than 4 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs every year. The majority are children, who are at least three times more likely than adults to sustain a serious dog bite.
It’s very important that children know how to handle themselves in a situation where they are threatened by a dog. Remember that because you have a dog at home, or your child plays regularly with the neighbor’s dog, doesn’t mean that your child knows how to react to an aggressive dog. In fact, most adults don’t know, either!
Take the time to teach your children what they should do if a dog attacks them. To make the learning truly valuable, act out scenarios. Make it fun and interactive so that your child is more likely to remember what to do if they ever find themselves being threatened by a dog. They can even write a play and perform it with their friends, or write and illustrate a little instruction booklet for their classmates. And remember to revisit the issue with kids regularly so that they don’t hear the advice once and then forget it. Do whatever it takes to ensure your child is not a dog attack victim.
Dogs Children Should Avoid
- A dog who looks sick or hurt – This dog may be scared if you come near him. If he is in pain, then he might try to bite you to tell you to stay away from him.
- A mother dog with puppies – She will be trying to protect her puppies and may see you as a threat. If you get too close to her puppies, she might bite you.
- Fighting dogs – If you see dogs fighting, stay away! They are angry and might bite you if you go near them. If it is your own dog that is fighting with another dog and you are scared for them, call an adult to help out, but don’t go near your dog yourself.
- A dog who looks lost – This dog may be scared because he’s lost, and will try to bite if you go near him. Tell an adult about the lost dog.
Don’t Pet These Dogs
Dogs in these situation may not seem like a threat, but they can easily react negatively to your child.
- Playing with a toy – He may think you are trying to take the toy away from him and might bite you.
- Sitting in a car – Some dogs will act very protective about “their” car and will not like you coming close to it.
- Sitting on the other side of a fence – If he is in his yard, he may be protective of his home, and might try to bite you to tell you to stay away.
- Eating – He may be protective of his food. He doesn’t want you to have any, so he might bite you!
- Sleeping –You might frighten him if you pat him when he’s asleep.
- …And never pet a dog without the owner’s permission.
What does an Angry or Scared Dog Look Like?
From the above examples of dogs your child should not pet, your child can see that dogs who are angry or scared are the ones who may bite. Teach your child how to recognize a dog that is angry or scared. Perhaps you can draw a picture of what an angry or frightened dog looks like.
An angry dog will:
- Try to look big by standing tall and straight
- Prick their ears up straight
- Raise the fur on his back
- Wag his tail. That’s right, not all wagging tails mean the dog is happy. If the dog holds his tail up high and stiff, and only the top part is wagging, this can mean the dog is about to fight.
- Growl or bark and show their teeth
- Stare straight into your eyes
A scared dog will:
- Shrink low to the ground
- Put his ears back against their head
- Put his tail between her legs
Wrong Behavior During a Dog Attack
It is very understandable that when you are threatened by an aggressive dog, your natural reaction is to yell, scream, twirl about, flap your arms and run. However, these are all the wrong things to do and can make the situation worse! Screaming and yelling will only agitate and excite the dog further. Flailing arms give the dog something to bite, or he may think you’re trying to hit him. And if you run away, this will likely entice the dog to chase you. Explain these things to your child so that they not only understand how they should react in the case of a dog attack, but also how not to react.
What to Do If a Dog Threatens You
If a dog is acting angry or scared near you, or is jumping on you and trying to bite you, you need to know how to react. Even if you know the dog but you feel a little scared or unsure about it, follow these directions:
- Make Yourself Look Like a Tree Trunk – When the dog comes near you, stop and stand completely still. Tuck your hands under your chin and keep your arms close to your body, in front of your chest. Make yourself look like a tree trunk. If no part of you is sticking out or moving, then the dog will have nothing to bite. Stand still and quiet like a tree until the dog goes away. Then start to move away slowly. Don’t turn and run or the dog will chase you. Slowly walk backwards so you can keep your eye on the dog. If he starts to follow you, make yourself into a tree again.
- Make Yourself Look Like a Rock – If you are on the ground when the dog is near you, or he pushes you over, then roll up into a ball like a big rock. Put your face down near the ground and cover your head and face with your arms and fists. Stay still and quiet like a rock and wait for the dog to leave. Then get up and move away slowly – don’t run.