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Simple Steps Can Shield Children From Dog Bites

FRIDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- More than half of the 4.7 million people bitten by dogs in the United States annually are children under the age of 14.

Among children, the rate of dog-bite related injuries is highest among those aged 5 to 9, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To help protect kids, the American Academy of Pediatrics offers safety tips for dog owners and parents.

  • Choose a breed with a child-friendly reputation. You can never be 100 percent sure of how a dog is going to behave, but experts recommend breeds such as collies and labradors. Ask a veterinarian about the typical behavior of certain breeds before bringing the dog home.
  • Socialize your dog by continuously exposing the animal to different people and other pets so it is comfortable in a variety of situations.
  • Train your dog to follow commands. Avoid aggressive games, such as wrestling or tug-of-war, which could reinforce bad behaviors.
  • Vaccinate your dog against rabies and other diseases, and neuter your dog, which can decrease aggression.
  • Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
  • Teach children to exercise caution around dogs. Avoid running past dogs and pestering dogs while it's sleeping, eating or caring for puppies.
  • Don't let your kids approach dogs without asking the owner's permission first. Children should allow dogs to sniff them first and avoid touching their face, head and tail.
  • If threatened by a dog, children should be told to remain calm, avoid eye contact and stand still until the dog leaves or back away slowly. If that doesn't work and they are knocked down, children should curl into a ball and protect their face with their hands.

Children who have been bitten by a dog should have their wound cleaned with soap and water. Larger wounds need immediate medical attention. If possible, contact the dog's veterinarian to check its vaccination records.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on how to prevent dog bites.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: The American Academy of Pediatrics, news release, June 26, 2012

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