Dogs bite: some 4.7 million times a year, leading 800,000 humans to seek medical attention, of whom 386,000 will need emergency treatment. A third of all homeowner’s liability claims result from dog bites, at an average cost per claim of $32,072. Every year, the insurance industry shells out over a billion dollars for dog-bite claims.
My son, a claims adjuster for a major US insurance company, once remarked that the most serious injuries insurers cover result from dog bites.
Even a little dog can inflict some major damage. When the neighbor across the street picked up one of her wee Yorkies, it flew into a rage and bit her hands and arms, severing tendons in both arms. The result was surgery and a lengthy recuperation.
We all love our corgis and hope they won't bite us or anyone else -- maybe we imagine they won't. Still, the incident list of fatalities grows -- even a dachshund is numbered among the perps, having killed a two-week-old babe while the mother slept. Our dogs are not molosser types, bred and often trained for aggression. But they are dogs, and they are capable of dealing out mayhem to those who annoy them, particularly unwary children.
So here are a few tips for keeping kids (and yourself) safe around dogs...
• Never leave an infant or small child sleeping where a dog can reach it.
Close the bedroom door if the dog is at large in the house with you while the child is napping. Crate the dog or tie it by a leash to a doorknob if you intend to nap while the child sleeps. If weather permits, let the dog outside in the yard while you and the kid take a nap.
• Never allow a child to tease a dog.
• Never let a child to try to ride a dog.
• Never leave a child unattended with a dog, in the yard, in a vehicle, or in the house.
• Teach your children to stay away from dogs that are eating.
• Crate-train your dog so that it can be kept out of harm’s way and gets a break from the kiddies. Train your children to leave the dog alone while it’s enjoying some private time in its crate.
• Teach your child always to ask permission before petting a dog.
• Teach your child not to wave her or his arms around when near a dog (dogs perceive this as a threat).
• Teach your child to avoid unknown dogs and leave the vicinity if they see a loose dog.
• Don’t allow your child to drag a small dog around, pick it up, or play “dress-up” with a dog.
• Do not keep a pack of dogs in a household with children.
• Never let your dog run loose. Anywhere. No, not even in dog parks. Especially not in dog parks.
• Do not chain your dog outside in the yard.
• Do not train your dog to be aggressive, and never keep a dog that has shown aggression toward humans.
• Unless you’re an experienced trainer and you have exceptionally good sense, avoid buying or adopting molosser breeds, including pit bulls. Many or most of these dogs have been bred as protection, fighting, or herding dogs; they are large, powerful, and potentially dangerous. Some are unpredictable and have a short fuse.
• When you reach the age of decrepitude — say, over the age of about 60 — choose a pet dog that is not big enough or strong enough to overwhelm you. Bear in mind that you will not get any stronger as you get older, and that most large dogs can easily overpower an elderly or disabled person: not necessarily in an aggressive mode. Accidents happen…don’t invite any that are worse than they need to be.
• Do not drink when you have a dog around.
• Do not use drugs when you have a dog around.
• Obedience-train your dog well, starting in puppyhood.
• Never strike, harass, or yell at your dog. Behaving as though you're in control is different from abusing a dog, a child, or another adult. Act confident and calm, even when you're not.