Dog Bite Injury Prevention, Children Ages Birth to 19 Years

Each year in New York State (NYS), 6,600 children under 20 years old are treated at a hospital because of a dog bite injury; more than 200 of them are injured severely enough to require hospitalization.

The good news is that you, as a parent or caregiver, can play a major role in preventing dog bite-related injuries.

Where do most dog bites take place?

Most dog bites occur at home or in a familiar place. The majority of biting dogs belong to the victim's family, a friend, or neighbor, but children may be bitten by dogs in parks and other public places.

Are there certain types of dogs that are more likely to bite?

No. All dogs, big or small, can bite a child and cause injury. Even the friendliest dogs can become uncomfortable and react by biting.

Why do dogs bite?

Dogs may bite because they are scared or because they are trying to protect themselves or their owner. Children get excited around dogs, leading them to approach dogs too quickly, talk loudly and try to hug the animal. These types of actions may result in a bite.

What can I do to prevent my child from being bitten by a dog?

Always supervise your child around dogs. Teach your child how to behave around dogs to decrease their risk of being bitten.

Safe behaviors include:

  • Asking the owner for permission before petting a dog. If the owner grants permission, your child should approach the dog slowly and quietly, let the dog sniff him or her, and then pet the dog's sides or back gently.
  • Moving slowly around dogs so as not to startle them.
  • Not teasing dogs. Teasing can make dogs angry or frustrated, causing it to bite.
  • Keeping fingers together when feeding a dog a treat so it won't confuse the hand with the treat.

Unsafe behaviors include:

  • Petting a dog that is playing with a toy because the dog may become defensive if it thinks the child is trying to take it.
  • Trying to pet a dog that is in a car or behind a fence. Most dogs instinctively protect their property and home.
  • Creeping up on or pet a dog that is eating or sleeping since dogs may bite when they are startled or frightened.

How should I teach my child to behave if they are approached by an unfamiliar or angry dog?

  • Ask the owner for permission before petting a dog. If the owner grants permission, your child should approach the dog slowly and quietly, let the dog sniff him or her, and then pet the dog's sides or back gently.
  • Observe a dog's body language for signs that the dog may be angry. These signs include ears standing up, back fur standing on end, tail straight up, bared teeth, growling, and staring straight at whoever is approaching.
  • If a stray dog approaches, your child should stop walking and stand still with hands at his or her side. If the child is playing on the ground, he or she should lie still on the ground with knees tucked into the stomach and place his or her hands over the ears.
  • Do not run from a dog or scream. When the dog loses interest, your child should slowly back away until the dog is out of sight.

Where can I find more information about preventing dog bites?