Dog Bites and Children:  Myths, Triggers, and Prevention

According to a report in 2007, over 70% of fatal dog attacks involve a child victim. Children account for about half of all injuries from dogs that require medical attention. Overall, dogs are three to five times more likely to bite a child than an adult. Kids and dog bites are an unfortunate combination.

But many myths surround dog bites and children. Here are the things you should know about the myths, triggers, and prevention of dog attacks on children.

Myth: Injuries from Dogs Are Rare

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, more children receive dog bites than mumps, measles, and whooping cough combined. Dog bites cause more injuries to children than:

  • Bicycles
  • Skateboards
  • Playgrounds
  • All-terrain vehicles (ATVs)

Even dogs that grew up with children can bite, particularly if they are provoked.

Truth: Pit Bulls Bite More Kids Than Other Breeds

A greater number of dog bites that require medical attention come from pit bulls than any other breed. Pit bulls also cause more dog bite deaths than any other breed.

In 2019, pit bulls and pit bull mixes accounted for 17% of dog bites in Maricopa County. This put them in first place among the breeds with reported bites. By comparison, German shepherds had the second largest number of dog bites in the county at 7%.

Truth: Pit Bulls Kill More Children

Pit bulls account for 66% of dog bite deaths. This means that pit bulls cause six times more deaths than the second-place breed, Rottweilers.

Pit bulls have a few characteristics that make them more dangerous to kids:

  • Height
    Fatal dog attacks usually result from a bite to the head or neck. A pit bull’s height puts them right at the head and neck area of a child.
  • Weight
    Pit bulls weigh between 55 and 70 pounds on average. Because of their broad, muscular bodies, they weigh a lot for their size. At 55 pounds, a pit bull can easily knock a child down.
  • Head and Mouth Shape
    Pit bulls have a broad mouth. This means that they can grab bigger objects than a breed with a narrow mouth could. They also have short noses. This means they have more leverage and can bite down with more force than a dog with a long nose.

As a result of these factors, even a pit bull with a sweet temperament could cause a fatal bite if provoked.

Myth: Toddlers Are the Most Likely to Get Bitten

In fact, the age group most likely to be involved in dog biting incidents are school-age children between the ages of 5 and 9 years old.

Myth: Dogs Only Bite Strangers

Over 70% of dog bites involve a household dog. Veterinarians and dog trainers recommend picking a breed that matches your family’s makeup and lifestyle.

Dogs with a lot of energy can develop behavioral problems without exercise. Anxious dogs may develop anxiety around children or other dogs. When a dog faces an uncomfortable situation, it may lash out by biting.

Myth: Small Dogs Do Not Bite

Almost any dog will bite if provoked. Dog bite reports describe some of the most likely triggers that result in a dog biting a child, which include:

  • Taking the dog’s food
  • Roughhousing
  • Breaking up dog fights
  • Touching the dog’s puppies

Unfortunately, these situations can arise from a dog acting on instinct and a child who may not appreciate the danger of the situation.

Preventing Injuries from Dogs

Kids and dog bites do not need to go hand-in-hand. Since most dogs who bite children live with them, prevention and training can stop most dog bites.

Some tips for preventing dog bites include:

Adopt Carefully

Consider adopting a dog from another owner. They can provide some background on a dog’s personality. Knowing a dog’s personality before you adopt helps you determine whether your home is a good fit. For example, some dogs prefer no pets or children.

Make sure you spend some time with the dog before you adopt it. Shelters do not always have much information about the dogs. Abused dogs can lash out at your children if they are not handled properly.

Supervise Dogs Around Children

If you have a large dog, supervise your dog when it interacts with your children. If you see aggressive tendencies, you might want to find a new home for your dog.

Choose the Right Breed

Although not all pit bulls have aggressive personalities, pit bulls can cause a lot of harm when they bite. Nearly every kid will provoke a dog at some point during their childhood.

Exercise Caution Around Strange Dogs

Although most dog bites occur in the home, stray dogs can bite, too. More importantly, stray dogs can carry rabies. Steer clear of stray dogs, particularly if they act strangely.

Some signs of rabies include:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Seizures
  • Staggering
  • Partial or complete paralysis

If you see a dog exhibiting any of these behaviors, steer clear of it.

What to Do After a Dog Bite

For minor bites, infection poses the greatest risk. Clean minor bites thoroughly and apply a topical antibiotic.

For major bites, try to stop the bleeding and call an ambulance. Blood loss can lead to shock and death.

If the dog belonged to someone else, get their contact information. Arizona law imposes liability on dog owners for bites to children who did not provoke the dog and was not trespassing. Learn more about dog bite liability on our website.

Goodnow McKay’s Dog Bite Attorneys Can Help

Goodnow McKay understands how sensitive a dog bite can be, especially when the injury was caused by someone else’s animal. No matter what level of connection you have with the dog owner, it is important for you to receive the compensation you deserve.

You may have medical expenses and time off work to deal with. We can obtain the compensation you deserve, allowing you to regain control of your life as quickly as possible. Contact our firm to learn more about the legal process or to schedule an initial consultation.

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