It’s National Dog Bite Prevention Week in the US.  This is a  good time for dog owners, parents and the general public to think about ways to avoid bites from dogs and other animals. Dog bites are very common; many cause only minor injury, but some can even be fatal. It is estimated that 4.7 million people in the US are bitten by dogs each year, and that 800 000 of these people require medical attention for their dog bites, and that 10-34 people die as a result of their wounds.  In the majority of cases, people are bitten by a dog they know, either their own or a neighbour’s dog, but strays and other dogs may also bite. Not owning a dog, therefore, does not make someone immune to the risks. Someone who does not know how to interact with a dog could be at higher risk of being bitten when they do encounter a dog. It is very important that children be taught when they should not and when they may approach a dog, and how to safely interact with a dog to reduce the risk of being bitten. It is also critical for people to know what to do if they are bitten.

Some key points to teach children:

  • Never approach a strange dog
  • Be careful and quite when approaching a dog – never make sudden movements or loud noises
  • Do not play with a dog without adult permission and supervision
  • Never disturb a dog that is eating, sleeping or taking care of puppies
  • Never take something out of the mouth of a dog
  • Avoid direct eye contact with strange or aggressive dogs
  • "Be a tree": If confronted by a strange or aggressive dog, remain still and quiet
  • If knocked over by a dog, curl into a ball and remain still
  • Tell any adult about any bite. Try to remember as many details as possible about a dog that bites so that the owner can be found and the rabies vaccination status of the dog verified

A comprehensive document on a Community Approach to Dog Bite Prevention has been published by the American Veterinary Medical Association.