Dog Bite Prevention for Kids

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Dog bites and children

  • 50% of dog attacks involved children under 12 years old1
  • 82% of dog bites treated in the emergency room involved children under 15 years old2
  • 70% of dog-bite fatalities occurred among children under 10 years old3
  • Bite rates are dramatically higher among children who are 5 to 9 years old2
  • Unsupervised newborns were 370 times more likely than an adult to be killed by a dog4
  • 65% of bites among children occur to the head and neck2
  • Boys under the age of 15 years old are bitten more often than girls of the same age2

What can parents do?

Educate your children.

Studies have found that the number one dog-bite prevention measure is education. Children who understand how to act around dogs, how to play with dogs, when to leave dogs alone and how to properly meet a dog are much less likely to be bitten. To address this need, American Humane Association has created American Humane KIDS: Kids Interacting with Dogs Safely™ , a dog-bite prevention program specifically for children ages 4 to 7.

Supervise your children.

Unsupervised children may innocently wander too close to a dangerous situation. Eighty-eight percent of fatal dog attacks among 2-year-olds occurred when the child was left unsupervised.  Supervision of children, especially around dogs, is one way to help ensure they are safe.

Safe rules of behavior for kids

Don’t treat a dog unkindly.

  • Never hit, kick, slap or bite a dog or pull on his ears, tail or paws.

Don’t bother a dog when she is busy.

  • Never bother dogs with puppies or dogs that are playing with or guarding toys, eating or sleeping. Always leave service dogs alone while they are working.

Don’t approach a dog you don’t know.

  • Never approach a dog that is tied up, behind a fence or in a car.
  • If you find an injured animal, call the police or animal control for help.
  • If you want to meet a dog, first ask the owner for permission. If the owner says it’s OK, hold out your hand in a fist for the dog to sniff. If he’s interested, you can give him a little scratch under the chin (not over the head) and say hello.

Do be calm.

  • Always talk in a quiet voice or whisper -- no shouting -- and take a “time out” if you feel angry or frustrated.

Do be still.

  • If a loose dog approaches you, stand still like a tree. Keep your hands at your sides, and stay quiet and calm. Look away from the dog.
  • If you are on the ground, curl up into a ball, like a rock. Keep your knees to your chest and your hands over your ears. Stay quiet and calm. Look down at your knees, not at the dog.
  • Always make slow movements, set things down carefully and don’t run when you’re around dogs, as this gets them excited and they may accidently hurt you.

Resources for additional information:

American Humane KIDS: Kids Interacting with Dogs Safely dog-bite prevention program 
American Veterinary Medical Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control


1Humane Society of the United States. (2005). National Pet Related Statistics. Shelter Pages, 37-38. 
2Centers for Disease Control. (2003). Nonfatal dog bite-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments-US 2001. MMWR, 52(26), 605-610.
3Sacks, J. J., Sattin, R. W., & Bonzo, S. E. (1989). Dog bite-related fatalities from 1979 through 1988. JAMA, 262(11), 1489-1492.
4National Canine Research Foundation. Fatal dog attack studies. Retrieved July 14, 2009, from

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