Dogs are instinctual pack animals before anything else. They are very spontaneous and unpredictable, especially if they don’t like something or are in the company of strangers. They are not able to make the difference between friends or enemies all by themselves, so they might feel in danger even though they might be surrounded by good people. On the other hand, their interaction with children might be considered annoying or threatening, so they will get defensive, especially if the child is hands on all the time, agitated, running from a place to another, screaming or yelling, even if normally they are not aggressive pets.
Statistics show that South Africa has the highest rate of deaths caused by dog bites in the world and the biggest tragedy is that most of the cases are children. This issue happens because of the fact that people have higher expectations from dogs than they should as they are not rational beings. The problem can be solved in several ways, but when the inevitable happens, there are some last resort solutions in that area as well.
Young kids before the age of 5 do not quite understand the concept of boundaries and you can see that on yourself. The only problem here is that the dog does not have the same level of understanding as you do, so when the child trespasses his territory or personal space, especially while eating, guarding or sleeping, he will respond in an unpleasant way. Also, children are very attracted to animals in general and interested in playing with them because they are cute, fluffy and energetic, but when they approach a strange dog in an overly friendly way, they might end up in trouble. However, more than half of the children that are bitten by dogs are the victims of the family pet because of the fact that they don’t quite understand how they should play or interact with it.
Teach your children
First of all, you should teach the child to avoid making sudden moves around the dog or at least not run around or yell. Dogs usually don’t like to have their ears, paws, tails or anything else pulled (as neither do we, humans), so educate your kid not to do all those things, regardless of the relationship with the animal. Moreover, if they meet a strange dog on the street, tell them to ask the owner if it is ok to pet the dog, from a distance before even approaching it, because if the owner says “no”, they might have a very good reason for it. However, if the owner says it’s ok, then anyone that wants to play with the dog (not only children) should know about the 3 no’s: no talk, no touch, no eye contact, but instead let the animal come first. If it does not come, that means it’s just not interested and no pressure should be put, but instead walk away. If the dog is a stray one, that should be a good enough reason to not interact with it at all because they are the most unpredictable ones since nobody cares for them properly.
There are some signs that should alarm the child or anybody else for that matter that a dog is in a defensive state. Usually, dogs that are preparing to attack have a certain body language and behaviour: growling and showing teeth, fur raised on the back, years raised or pointing forward, raised tail (or even wagging) and an intense look. The dog might be silent, but very tense and staring at the possible victim and that is even more dangerous because the child might not pay attention. In any of these cases, the best thing you can teach your child to do is to “turn into a tree” until help arrives or the dog gets bored and leaves. Under no circumstances should you encourage them to run away or yell at the dog because that will only make them engage in attack.
What to do after bite
Of course, a dog bite can be distressful for both parts, but especially for the child. This traumatic experience can scar them for life, not only physically, but emotionally as well, because the fear and helplessness they feel are on a very high level. As a parent or caretaker, you can file for a dog bite compensation that can help with the eventual costs of the treatment. This compensation will be calculated according to the gravity of the situation and the specialized attorneys can guide you through the whole process in order to offer you the best help they can.
The most important and urgent thing to do after a dog bite is to seek after medical care, especially if it resulted into an open wound. The reason for that is the bacteria in the dog’s mouth and the diseases that it may carry and that can produce dangerous infections. These injuries should be taken care of at least in the emergency room because they should be properly cleaned and treated and they might need local antibiotic. Apart form that, in case of a child, but not only, you should also ask a therapist for help on the emotional side of the damage.
What are the repercussions
On a physical level, like any other common child injury, a dog bite can have a wide range of damage from mild to severe. In any case, they should be seen by a doctor that can recommend the next steps. There are some very rare cases when the child may need reconstructive surgery and those are the most aggravating situations.
However serious or not the actual bite is, the worst part is the emotional effect that can last forever and turn into veritable phobias. Going through this experience, especially during childhood, can severely affect the perception one has over dogs and may end up hating them or having uncontrollable reactions like panic attacks. People with a powerful fear of dogs might miss out on the major benefits of owning one, and this is why they should ask a professional for help