Children seem to love dogs with a passion. They just need to learn to love dogs with some caution.
This lesson is critically important for kids. Each year, about 4.7 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs--80% of them by canines we know and interact with regularly--and it's estimated that more than half of those victims are under the age of 13. What's more, children are at least three times more likely than adults to sustain a serious dog-bite.
The good news is that most bites can be prevented. And during National Dog Bite Prevention Week, May 16-22, the National Association for Humane and Environmental Education (NAHEE), The HSUS's youth affiliate, is spreading the word to do exactly that: prevent children (and adults) from suffering the sting of another dog bite.
Even the friendliest dogs can be uncomfortable with a child's quick movements and loud tone of voice. Children tend to get excited around dogs, approaching quickly, talking loudly, sometimes even hugging. Any one of these actions can easily result in a bite. So what's a child to do? In a nutshell: Speak quietly and move slowly around dogs, and follow these simple rules:
Learning to understand dogs' body language is another important way to avoid being bitten. Teach children that animals use body language to tell us how they feel. When a dog is angry or fearful, she is likely to bite, and should never be approached. Here are the signs to look for:
Although children will most often interact with their family's and neighbors' dogs, they need to know what to do should they encounter an unknown dog, off-leash and without a caregiver. Teach children to avoid such dogs, not make direct eye contact with them, and slowly and quietly walk away. If a strange dog approaches, children should follow these tips:
How can you ensure that children learn those valuable lessons, and put them into practice? NAHEE offers the following teaching tools to help parents, teachers, and animal care professionals do just that--in a way that will grab children's attention and make learning fun.
"NAHEE is thrilled to offer such a diverse range of dog bite prevention resources," says Executive Director Bill DeRosa. "Teaching children to behave safely around dogs will not only prevent injuries, but also help to enhance the bond between people and pets."
To order NAHEE's dog bite prevention materials for kids, visit the NAHEE web site (http://www.nahee.org/bite.asp) or call (860) 434-8666.
Check out hsus.org during National Dog Bite Prevention Week in May for tips on how to "bite proof" your pooch.