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Just for Kids: Preventing Dog Bites

By: Virginia Wells

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Most dogs are friendly, but even friendly dogs can sometimes become angry or scared. Many dogs bite if they think they have to. Understanding how dogs think can help you make friends without getting hurt.

Dogs bite for many reasons:

  • When they feel threatened or afraid
  • When they get excited, even in play
  • When they don't know you
  • When their "chase response" is triggered
  • When they are in pain
  • When they are protecting their territory, food, toys, family or pups

    Sometimes you can tell when a dog is going to attack. The dog may stand very still, and he might be growling or showing his teeth or barking. The hair on his back may be up. He may stare at you and his tail may be stiff and up in the air. Be very careful, even if his tail is wagging. If he is friendly, his tail will wag in a relaxed way. If his tail is up, stiff and wagging very fast, watch out. But some dogs may not give any signs at all.

    What To Do

    Do you know what to do if you see a strange dog? Here are some rules to follow to keep you safe when you are near an unfamiliar dog.

  • Never go near a dog you don't know – even if he is wagging his tail. A wagging tail does not always mean he is friendly.
  • If a dog comes to you, hold out your hand and let him sniff your palm.
  • If a dog comes up to sniff you, let him. He will probably go away when he decides you are not a threat.
  • Never scream and run. This will only make the dog run after you. Stand very still and don't look at the dog.
  • If a dog jumps on you and knocks you over, roll into a ball and lie very still.
  • If a dog attacks you, give him anything you have to chew on, like your backpack, a book or even your bike.
  • Never pet someone's dog without getting permission. Never go into someone's yard if there is a dog.
  • If you see a stray dog or a dog that is hurt, call your parents. The dog may be frightened and may bite.
  • Never reach through a fence to pet a dog.

    When you are at home with your own dog, there are some more good rules to follow.

  • Never tease your dog.
  • Never disturb your dog when he is eating or sleeping.
  • Never disturb your dog if she is caring for her puppies.
  • Never make loud noises near your dog.
  • Never put your hand between two dogs.

    If a dog bites you, tell your parents immediately. Dogs can be fun, but they can be dangerous, too. Be very careful when you see a dog you don't know.

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