Man’s Best Friend: Teaching Your Children About Animal Safety

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Dont sit on my head kid.

According to the American Humane Association, there are approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by a dog in the U.S. each year. Half of these incidents involve children who are under the age of 12, and a shocking 70 percent of all fatalities that are caused by dog bites involve victims who are under 10 years old. With this in mind, it is imperative to take steps to teach your child how to remain safe around dogs. Additionally, parents should also have an understanding of the medical and legal steps that should be taken during the immediate aftermath of a dog attack.

Bite Prevention Techniques

Children should be taught at a young age how to handle an encounter with a dog, regardless of whether or not you have one of these pets in your home. Basic prevention techniques for kids include never teasing a dog, avoiding unsupervised canines, keeping their hands and face away from a dog’s food bowl and standing still instead of running away if a strange dog approaches them. They should also be taught to ask a dog owner before approaching any dog that they are not familiar with. Although these tips will not guarantee that your children will never be bitten, they will help dramatically reduce your risk of ending up needing to obtain medical attention for an injured child.

Getting Medical Attention

If you have a family pet, it will be practically impossible to prevent occasional scratches and bruises due to the playful nature of children and dogs. However, if any bites break the surface of your child’s skin, it will be necessary to seek medical attention immediately to prevent an infection. In most cases, the child will simply need to have the wound cleaned properly and possibly stitched up, but it is best to let an experienced medical professional determine if any other step should be taken.

Keep in mind that stray animals can carry diseases, so you should contact your local animal control office to let them know about any incident that involves a stray. It is also important to note that your child may be left with emotional trauma as a result of the incident. You should take the time to listen to their concerns and reassure them that every dog will not bite them. Additionally, it is a good idea to let them speak to a trained counselor if they have a difficult time moving forward.

What Are My Legal Rights?

The victim often has legal recourse when they are bitten by a dog that belongs to another individual. However, it is necessary to be aware of your state’s specific dog bite laws. For example, in Michigan, anyone who is bitten by a dog that was not provoked has legal right to sue the animal’s owner for damages as long as they were not illegally trespassing on private property when the incident occurred. In other words, a burglar who is attacked by a dog in Michigan would have a very difficult time receiving any compensation for their injuries. If you are unsure of what the laws are in your case, contacting a law firm that specializes in this type of injury can be very helpful. Michigan is currently ranked sixth for dog bite claims, and State Farm paid $4.6 million to cover 151 claims in 2012.

Taking Legal Action

If you or your child is bitten by a dog, it is important to contact a local dog bite attorney for assistance. They will be able to help you understand the laws that apply to your specific situation, and they can also file a lawsuit on your behalf against the responsible party. Keep in mind that some states, including Michigan, do not require the owner to have had any prior knowledge of possible vicious behavior from their animal in order to hold them accountable. Therefore, even if the dog was always friendly in the past, you still have the legal right to seek compensation for your medical expenses.

Dogs can be great companions for children, but you do need to remain cognizant of the fact that they are animals and could lash out unexpectedly at any time. Fortunately, if you teach your children basic dog safety tips, they should be able to avoid dealing with an attack in most cases.  



  1. Holly Chavez says:

    Wow. All very good advice. I worry about all the dogs in my neighborhood that aren’t on a leash. I don’t think a lot of parents have a talk with their children about all this and often humanize the dogs, thinking they won’t hurt anybody unless really provoked. Thanks for the article!

  2. Agree with you completely about the importance of teaching chilren how to be safe with animals. Making them know what to do and what not to do is fundamental. The same goes for taking them to the doctor if necessary. Hopefully taking precautions will make you avoid having to take dog owners to court.

    • Thanks Catarina!! Teaching kids to be safe with animals is very important. Especially since you never know how they will react to something. My dad has this evil dog. My son tried picking up his iPad that was laying next to the dog on the couch. He startled the dog because he was asleep and he bit my son on the shoulder. Not fun.

  3. Kire Sdyor says:

    I’m sitting here staring at a 13 year-old Giant Alaskan Malamute female that we are watching for a few days. I can remember my now 16 year-old daughter as a toddler being eye-to-eye with the dog and the two of them in a struggle to see who was the alpha-female. There were are few instances where I thought my daughter was going to lose a nose or a finger.

  4. Dogs are a wonderful addition to anyone’s life but with that said, they are not humans, they are dogs. They should be treated with respect and kindness, as dogs. Treating them any other way is not respecting them as the animal they are. With that said it is also extremely important as you point out that proper education is given to a child regarding dogs. There are some very simple techniques that should be made clear to anyone approaching a dog that is unfamiliar. This would avoid a lot of unnecessary bites.

    • I’ve been thinking about getting a dog but sometimes I fear I’ll get one that won’t be friendly with the kids. If we ever do I’ll definitely make sure they know how to treat it otherwise a snap might teach them instead.

  5. Krystle, this is good advice. We live on a farm and have always had one or two dogs. We had a couple of lovely German Shepherds but then we took in a couple of foster children and the dogs just did not like them. To keep the children safe we had to get rid of the dogs. Tough choice, but people do come first.

    • I’m sorry the dogs didn’t get along with the kids Lenie. I bet that was a super hard decision. Maybe they could of done obedient school?

  6. It’s always good advice to be prepared. If you live in a neighborhood with dogs, it is all the more important to know how to act around them. Most people do not know their rights in these situations. It’s good advice to check with an attorney specializing in dog bites.

  7. Ken Dowell says:

    I’m a dog owner and my dog walks around public parks with me off leash. Most of the children who approach him seem to be pretty cognizant of this and I think just about every child who has come up to pet my dog asks first. Like many dogs, my mutt will just sit there if small children bop him on the head, pull his tail or try to sit on him. That of course doesn’t preclude the need to teach your children proper behavior around dogs, but I just wanted to point out that many, many dogs are pretty instinctively smart about proper behavior around children.

    • Sounds like you have a great dog there Ken. My dad however has one of those dogs where my dad likes to joke “The question isn’t who has he bit but who hasn’t he”. He’s quite temperamental.

  8. Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie) says:

    This was super informative! I live across the street from a no leash park. While everyone knows that this is a no-leash park, I am constantly amazed that the parents who allow their kids to run up to a dog, hands flailing! And then get angry with the dog owner if they try to correct the child. So I do think it’s so important that kids are taught how to approach a dog…leashed or not… properly. Stand still…hand down and knuckles out. My parents taught me these things very early. But very insightful to show the medical and legal aspects of this too!

    • I’m not sure if my parents taught me how to act around dogs. I did have a few growing up though. To this day I am caution when I pass a dog unless it’s just one of those dogs you can tell loves people.

  9. Very good advice! I remember in sixth grade that my friend got bit by a dog she knew well. You never know when something unexpected will happen. I agree with a previous comment that dog owners really need to take responsibility for keeping their dogs on leash. So many dogs in my area are just running around on their own. This creates a dangerous situation for us and a dangerous situation for the pets.

  10. This is very nice advice for all parents. All of us know about the pain that one gets after dog bites. It is best to avoid such happening. As you said , it is best to teach our kids to keep them safe from bites and scratches.

    My daughter is crazy about cats but I am very scared of the scratches she can make on my daughters skin and I know that she is so fond and she can irritate the cat anytime.

    It’s not about if we do not have pet, we must teach kids for the pets of others too. I always try to tell my daughter to keep her on some distance while playing any pet.

  11. Great advice! I love (LOVE!) dogs but even they are animals and we need to be respectful of how to treat them. When I was around 10 yrs old we had a beautiful doberman puppy but even though our yard was fenced the monster boys next door did everything they could to torment that poor thing including trying to poke him with sticks. My dad talked to their parents about their behavior several times and the response was always a shrug and “kids, whatyagonnado?” Then one of them climbed over the fence into our yard and the dog finally snapped and bit him – didn’t even break the skin but it was enough for the “WE’LL SUE YOU” threats to start. It was heartbreaking but we ended up giving the dog away to save him and us. Always hoped those kids eventually got a little karmic payback at some point. 🙁

    • Aww, that’s sad Marquita. I’m sorry those boys were being mean to your dog. I always have to get on my boys when I see them treating the cats in ways I’d rather not they do. Kids have to learn to be nice to animals and that it’s not funny to tease them. PS I tried visiting your site but it says This page can’t be displayed 🙁

  12. Steve GuyFoodGuru says:

    Great advice!! 4.5 Million bites per year. I would have never came close to guessing that number. Amazing!

  13. A great post. Many people get a pet, especially a dog, and do not understand the consequences of having one. Also, they do not educate their children about other people’s dogs and how to act around them.

  14. Great tips! I will for sure look back over this when I have babies or when I am babysitting cousins etc as I have seen how much they love animals and touching absolutely everything!
    Thank you for sharing.
    Love, Husnaa

  15. Eliz Frank says:

    This is very important information for all parents to read and remember. It breaks my heart every time l read a tragic story of kids getting hurt by animals.

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