Last year 1,700 children were admitted to hospital after being bitten by a dog – but such incidents are preventable with close supervision and understanding dog body language, say dog and child safety experts. The message comes as a group of animal and child safety experts join forces to highlight how to prevent dog biting incidents on children for Child Safety Week, which runs from 5th-11th June.
The RSPCA, Child Accident Prevention Trust, Dogs Trust and Defra have put together fact sheets which parents can use to keep children safe and dogs happy by understanding dog body language and encouraging both to be closely supervised when together.
“A small amount of research could stop countless accidents every single year”
Dr Samantha Gaines, head of companion animals at the RSPCA, said, “We don’t ever expect our own dogs to bite, but all dogs can – it doesn’t matter what size or breed they are. Parents and guardians naturally love the idea of their child having a close bond with the family dog, and in many cases they do, but having a close bond doesn’t mean that the dog will never bite.
“1,700 children were admitted to hospital last year because of a dog biting incident – which is very worrying. But thankfully many bites are preventable and as parents and guardians, we can play an important role in protecting our children and keeping our dog happy.
“Dog body language can tell you so much about how your dog is feeling and when they want to be left alone. A small amount of research could stop countless accidents every single year.”
Maria Kyle, Intervention Development Manager at Dogs Trust, said, “Whilst there are many examples of children and dogs living happily together and enjoying the mutual benefits of a loving bond, it is essential that adults closely supervise all interactions to prevent the risk of injury to either party.
“Many reported incidents involving dogs and children may well have been prevented by following some simple yet effective steps. These include understanding your dog’s communication and ensuring they always have space when they need it, recognising child behaviours that dogs can often struggle to cope with, as well always closely supervising children and dogs when they are together.
“We are pleased to have teamed up with Defra, RSPCA and the Child Accident Prevention Trust to share our advice with parents and carers during this Child Safety Week.”
Katrina Phillips OBE, chief executive of the Child Accident Prevention Trust, said, “The summer holidays bring an increase in dog bites, as children and dogs spend more time together at home.
“Give your dog a safe space they can go to when they need time out from children’s exuberance. Watch, listen and stay close when your dog and child are together. And learn dog body language so you can spot the early warning signs and separate them before the worst happens. Even a much-loved family pet can bite if they feel they have no other option.”
Parents can find information factsheets about dog body language, plus tips on how to keep children safe around dogs, at capt.org.uk/dogs-and-children. There is also information on the website about how to prepare your dog if you have a new baby.