Dogs are the greatest! Loving, fun, and protective companions, dogs are part of our families. However, even the best pups can hurt a child; whether by accident or not. Dog bites can be extremely traumatic and can scar the child (emotionally and physically) for life. We looked at kids who were bit by dogs on our trauma service over the last year and a half, and here is what we found:
1. The average age of the children bit by dogs was 6.5 years old. However, the most common age for a bite is 4 years old.
2. It's pretty evenly split between boys (51%) and girls (49%) when you look across all of the records. If you split it into little kids and big kids, we do see some variation to that. When we look at little kids (ages 0-9), it's still fairly evenly split between boys (45%) and girls (55%), though you can see slightly more girls than boys are bit in this age range. There is a huge difference when you look at the big kids, though. In the age range of 10-18, boys were significantly more likely to be bit (at 69%) than girls (31%).
3. 74% of the kids on the trauma service from January 2022 to June 2023 were bit on their face. Sometimes they were bit in multiple places, but they all had at least one bite to the face. As kids get older, they become more aware of the dangers of getting their face too close to a dog, which is probably why we see that shift.
Here are some pointers for preventing a dog bite:
1. Sometimes the bites are provoked, sometimes they aren't. The best thing parents can do is always be aware of the proximity of their child to a dog, especially if they're face level with a pet. Don't leave your child unattended with a dog. Babies and toddlers can hurt dogs unintentionally by pulling or grabbing them and dogs can be reactive creatures. Don't let your kids sit on dogs- both the dog and the child can end up hurt.
2. Never, ever let your child hang around your dog when they're eating, ESPECIALLY when there is another dog around. Food anxiety is a real thing and even dogs that have lived together for years and adore each other can get snappy from time to time; you don't want your child to be caught in the middle of a spat.
3. Teach your children that if they meet a strange dog and the dog is aggressive that it's important to stay calm, do not run, speak in a soothing tone, and back away slowly. Don't make eye contact with the dog.
4. Teach your child to read a dog's body language. Stay away from their face, but if they're tucking their tail, moving away from your child intentionally, seem really tense, are baring teeth or growling, leave that dog alone. Don't ever stick hands through a fence or into a car to pet a dog.
5. Always ask the owner before petting their dog. The owner knows the dog best and will help the child to learn where the dog likes to be pet or if their pup just isn't in the mood to be social.