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children and dog

Dos and Don’ts for avoiding dog bites

We tend to forget that dogs do not communicate in the same way as humans. Training is the key to preventing dog bites. By that we mean that dogs, children and adults need to be trained in how to approach and communicate effectively.

Humans make eye contact when communicating and make contact through an open handshake. Both of these behaviours may be seen as a threat to dogs.

Sleeping dogs: Teach children not to approach a sleeping dog. If you need to wake the dog up, call him from a distance to allow him time to become oriented. Provide the dog with a bed that is separated from noisy high activity areas. This will minimise the risk of unintentionally waking the dog in fright.

Feeding dogs: Children should be taught not to approach a dog who’s eating or gnawing on a bone. Dogs may become protective of their food or bones. Dogs can be conditioned to accept interference with their food from the time they enter the house as a puppy. This training should continue throughout the dog’s life, especially if there is a possibility of children entering the property.

When approaching a dog:

  • Children should be taught to leave strange dogs alone and to report stray dogs to an adult who may be able to deal with the dog appropriately.
  • If a dog is in the company of his pet parent, it is essential to ask the pet parent’s permission to approach the dog.
  • The pet parent of the dog must initiate the introduction of a new person to the dog. The dog should be approached on an angle, not from the front or rear.
  • Once closer to the dog, slowly extend the back of the hand and allow the dog to sniff the hand before tickling under the chin or the side of the chest.
  • Dogs should not be patted on the top of the head or the shoulders.
  • An open palm facing the dog may be seen as a threat by the dog and may cause the dog to act defensively.
  • If the dog doesn’t sniff or back away, do not attempt to pat him.
  • Establishing eye contact with a dog can send a strong message of domination which can be perceived as a threat to the dog.

Supervising children around dogs: Young children can be rough and unrelenting. They may be unaware that their behaviour is annoying for the dog. Discourage rough, inappropriate play, as this may overexcite the dog. Adults should initially control the child’s movements when they are learning to interact with dogs. One good way to start is by holding and guiding a young child’s hand to pat the dog gently. Young children need constant supervision when in contact with dogs.

When approached by a strange dog: Children are easily excited. A common reaction in their excitement is to run and squeal. This behaviour can frighten a dog who may only be curious, or want to join in the fun. It is useful to teach children to stand straight and still (like a tree trunk!) and not raise their hands above their heads.

Important dog behaviour to recognise: As with other animals, dogs have a special way of communicating with each other and humans. Most people recognise the wagging tail as a sign of a happy dog, but fewer people really know or understand other signs of dog’s body language. A dog’s body language gives us clues about how a dog may be feeling.

A dog should be left alone if he:

  • Lifts his lips.
  • Growls.
  • Backs off.
  • Raises the hair on his back.

Minimizing the risk of dog bites

There are ways to prevent children from being bitten by dogs. This article gives advice on training children, adults and dogs to approach each other and communicate effectively.

We tend to forget that dogs do not communicate in the same way as humans. For example, humans make eye contact when communicating and make contact through an open handshake. Both of these behaviours may be seen as a threat to dogs.

Training is the key to preventing dog bites. By that we mean that dogs, children and adults need to be trained in how to approach and communicate effectively.

Sleeping dogs

Teach children not to approach a sleeping dog. When awoken from a deep sleep, humans have been known to behave defensively, that is to strike out. Dogs when woken in fright may behave in much the same way. Dogs should not be disturbed when sleeping. If you need to wake the dog up, call them from a distance to allow them time to become oriented.

Provide the dog with a bed that is separated from noisy high activity areas. This will minimize the risk of unintentionally waking the dog in fright.

Feeding dogs

Children should be taught not to approach a dog who is eating or gnawing on a bone. Dogs may become protective of their food or bones.

Dogs can be conditioned to accept interference with their food from the time they enter the house as a puppy. This requires the owner to teach the dog not to react if his food is removed while eating. Start by putting a small amount of food in the bowl, then moving your hand to the box to add more food. In this way, the presence of a hand becomes rewarding. If the puppy is happy and does not show signs of aggression, take the food away. Reward the puppy with a pat. After the puppy has sat and been given a reward, the food is returned and the puppy resumes eating. This training should continue throughout the dog’s life, especially if there is a possibility of children entering the property.

When approaching a dog

Children should be taught to leave strange dogs alone and to report stray dogs to an adult who may be able to deal with the dog appropriately.

Many behaviours humans show towards each other can be perceived as a threat to dogs. If a dog is in the company of his owner, it is essential to ask the owner’s permission to approach the dog. The owner of the dog must initiate the introduction of a new person to the dog. The dog should be approached on an angle, not from the front or rear. Once closer to the dog, slowly extend the back of the hand and allow the dog to sniff the hand before tickling under the chin or the side of the chest. Dogs should not be patted on the top of the head or the shoulders. An open palm facing the dog may be seen as a threat by the dog and may cause the dog to act defensively. If the dog doesn’t sniff or backs away, do not attempt to pat him.

Young children can be rough and unrelenting. They may be unaware that their behaviour is annoying for the dog. Their high-pitched squeals and uncoordinated attempts at showing affection can disturb the dog, causing him to act defensively or trigger a chasing response. Discourage rough, inappropriate play, as this may over excite the dog.

Supervising children around dogs

Young children should never approach a dog without the permission of the owner. Adults should initially control the child’s movements when they are learning to interact with dogs. One good way to start is by holding and guiding a young child’s hand to pat the dog gently. Young children need constant supervision when in contact with dogs.

Establishing eye contact with a dog can send a strong message of domination which can be perceived as a threat to the dog.

When approached by a strange dog

Children are easily excited. A common reaction in their excitement is to run and squeal. This behaviour can frighten a dog who may only be curious, or want to join in the fun. Never approach a strange dog without the permission of the dog owner. It is useful to teach children to stand straight and still (like a tree trunk!) and not raise their hands above their heads.

Important dog behaviour to recognise

As with other animals, dogs have a special way of communicating with each other and humans. Most people recognize the wagging tail as a sign of a happy dog, but fewer people really know or understand other signs of dog body language. A dog’s body language gives us clues about how a dog may be feeling.

A dog should be left alone if he:

  • Lifts his lips
  • Growls
  • Backs off
  • Raises the hair on his back

Preventing and managing dog bites

Dog bites are in no condition simply wounds, but are in fact medical emergencies that need to be attended to as soon as possible. Here’s how to prevent and manage dog bites.

Preventing dog bite

  • Never approach an unfamiliar dog.
  • Never run from a dog or scream in the presence of a dog.
  • Be still, ‘like a tree’, when approached by a dog.
  • If knocked down, become ‘like a log’ and using your arms hide your face and ears.
  • Children should never play with a dog without an adult present.
  • Immediately report stray dog or dogs with unusual behaviour.
  • Avoid direct eye contact with a dog.
  • Do not disturb a dog who is eating, sleeping or caring for her puppies.
  • Do not pet a dog without letting him first sniff you.
  • Tell children to report a dog bite to an adult immediately.
  • Educate the children and adults to remain calm when threatened by a dog.
  • If a dog perceives no movement, it will lose interest and go away.

Causes of dog bite

  • The incidence of serious and fatal dog bites has been seen mainly because of:
  • Involvement of the victim in trying to harm or steal the pups of a dog.
  • Involvement of the victim in provoking the dogs by some mischievous activity.
  • General carelessness of the victim, while approaching or handling a dog.
  • Allowing small children to play unsupervised with the pet dogs.

Dangers associated with dog bite

Only 15-20% of dog bite wounds become infected. Crush injuries, puncture wounds and hand wounds are more likely to become infected than scratches or tears. Infection tends to develop within 24-36 hours of the injury. However the main threat of dog bite is risk of acquiring ‘Rabies’, a disease which if develops always ends fatally. Till now there has been no suitable cure found for rabies, only pre/post exposure vaccines have been developed which help to prevent the occurrence of the disease but are of no use once the disease has developed. Other complications include infectious diseases such as osteomyelitis, septic arthritis, tenosynovitis, and septicemia. Most infected dog bite wounds yield polymicrobial organisms. Pasteurella multocida and Staphylococcus aureus are the most common aerobic organisms, occurring in 20-30% percent of infected dog bite wounds.

Some of the medical conditions associated with a high risk of infection after a dog bite include:

  • Chronic disease
  • Chronic edema of the extremity
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Immunosuppression
  • Liver dysfunction
  • Previous mastectomy
  • Prosthetic valve or joint
  • Splenectomy
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus

 

Treatment of dog bite

Treatment with prophylactic antibiotics for three to seven days is appropriate for dog bite wounds, unless the risk of infection is low or the wound is superficial. Amoxicillin-clavulanate potassium is the antibiotic of choice for a dog bite. For patients who are allergic to penicillin, doxycycline is an acceptable alternative, except for children younger than eight years and pregnant women. When compliance is a concern, daily intramuscular injections of ceftriaxone are appropriate.

Whether a person has received pre-exposure vaccination or not, anyone exposed to the rabies virus MUST receive post-exposure treatment.

(Dr F H Dedmari, BVSc & AH, is currently doing master in Veterinary Surgery & Radiology at Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Science & Technology, Kashmir, SKUAST-K).