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Over 800,000 people in the United States seek medical treatment for a dog bites each year; more than 400,000 of them are under the age of 18, according to statistics provided by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Dogs are members of the family, and provide great companionship for kids. However, they can also pose a great danger.
Teaching your children how to meet and interact with unfamiliar dogs can help them stay safe. Consider these tips:
When young children are around dogs, there should always be an adult in the room. This is true even with family dogs or other friendly pets. Young children cannot read the body language of a dog, and may not recognize that a dog sees their actions as threatening.
When it comes to interacting with a dog that is not a part of your own family, it pays to always ask the owner for permission before approaching. This is true even if your child had pet the dog in the past. If there is no owner present, do not allow your child to approach the dog. This is especially true if the dog is in a fence, pen, or car. Some dogs are protective of their turf, and may lash out if your child intrudes.
Once you have the owner’s permission, the child should approach the dog slowly and calmly, extending a closed hand. Most dogs will sniff the hand, checking out its new friend. Only then should the child reach to pet the dog’s shoulders or back. Avoid petting an unfamiliar dog’s head, when possible.
Dogs respond to the behavior of the people around them, so loud, running, rambunctious children will often result in misbehaved, difficult to control pups. Do not run, jump, hit, or make sudden moves around an unfamiliar dog. If a scared child needs to get away from the dog, tell them to walk away confidently and silently. Standing still and quiet can also often calm a hyper or jumping dog.
Most dogs will retreat when they get annoyed or tired while playing. Teach your children that if a dog leaves to lay down to find a quiet spot, they should leave them alone. Never try to play or pet a dog who is drinking, eating, or sleeping. Many otherwise friendly dogs are food aggressive, and a sudden awakening could startle even the sweetest dog.
Children and dogs play in very different ways. What comes naturally to a child is not always the best way to play with a dog. Teach your kids to play fetch or frisbee, but to never take a toy or treat from a dog. Young children also need a reminder that dogs do not like it when you pull their tail, tug on ears, pat too hard, or climb on their backs.
While you cannot depend on it, some owners tie a yellow ribbon on their dog’s collar or leash. Teach your children this means the dog is not a good dog to play with. While the ribbon may mean the dog is anxious or easily excited, it could also mean the dog is not friendly to strangers. You can ask the owner for permission, but do not approach the dog. Also teach your children about service animals, who need to focus on their work to ensure the safety of their handlers.
Knowing what to do if a dog does become aggressive or bites can also help prevent serious injuries and ensure your legal right to compensation remains protected. If a dog becomes aggressive, your children need to know to stand silently with their hands together in front of them and look down at their feet. If the dog knocks them to the ground, they should quietly curl into a ball with their hands and arms over their ears and neck and remain still until help arrives.
Once an adult restrains the dog, you need to call local authorities as soon as possible. Even minor dog bites warrant medical attention because of the risk of infection. Have paramedics transport your child, or visit the nearest emergency department as soon as possible for any bites that break the skin.
After a serious bite incident, you will want to call us as soon as possible. We can help you determine your legal options for covering medical bills and other related damages. In many cases, the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance will cover your child’s medical bills. In other cases, we may be able to file a case against the owner for failing to control her pet.
If you or your child suffered injuries in a Houston dog attack, call The Law Offices of Hilda L. Sibrian, P.C. at 713-863-1515 today.