Experts explain how to avoid dog bites involving children this summer

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ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. -- You may love your dog, but keep in mind that any dog is capable of biting and hurting a child.

Riley Children's Health Pediatrician Dr. Tara Holloran said that dog bites involving children often involve a family dog or a dog the family knows.

Reading a dog’s body language is critical in preventing dog bites. For a child to avoid a dog bite, Dr. Holloran says people should look for certain warning signs in dogs. 

There can be several different factors contributing to dog bites. For instance, a dog will communicate they are uncomfortable in a situation by moving away or tensing up. If your dog is wagging their tail with it tucked tightly between its legs, that’s also a sign of fear.

“Those are all signs they are not comfortable. And so, if we separate at that point, then we can avoid a bite. It's when we see them happen is when those warning signs kind of aren’t paid attention to," Dr. Holloran said.

Dr. Holloran advises parents to teach children how to interact with dogs safely, saying they should supervise infants and toddlers when they are around any dog and to never leave them alone unsupervised.

“You don’t probably want to be messed with when you’re asleep, or when you’re eating and dogs don’t either. So, we can teach them to respect the dogs and their space and try to not push them into situations they’re not comfortable in,” Dr. Holloran said.

To reduce the chance of anyone getting hurt, experts say to keep the interactions short, don't let your toddler follow or chase a dog, and lastly, have your child use one finger when petting a dog's back.

“That helps them learn to interact with the dog appropriately so there not grabbing because toddlers like to just grab handfuls of fur, grab ears, grab tails and those are all things that dogs don’t enjoy. So, if we can teach them to be gentle with dogs, that can go a long way,” Dr. Holloran said.

There have been 11 dog bite cases in April at Riley Children’s Health, on average that’s two dog bites a week. So far, this year, there have been a total of 34 cases.

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