Children and Dogs

Children and Dogsgirl dog leash2

Children are especially vulnerable to attacks by dogs. Almost 50% of all children in the United State will be bitten by a dog before their teenage years with most children being between the ages of 5 and 9.  News 4

Ironically, the overwhelming majority of dog bites to children will be by the family pet or a dog the child knows. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, two-thirds of dog bites among children occur to the head and neck, and often require plastic surgery. Regrettably, more than 75% of all fatal dog attacks happen to children. nbc4

Pediatric and veterinary associations agree that the best way to avoid dog bites and related injuries to children is through education of parents and children regarding how to handle, train and treat dogs. kbcd

The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends the following tips for safety around dogs.

For parents and care givers:

  • Be cautious around strange dogs
  • Treat your own pet with respect.
  • NEVER leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
  • Be alert for potentially dangerous situations.
  • Teach children – including toddlers – to be careful around pets.
  • Do not allow children to approach strange dogs.
  • Do not let children try to pet dogs by reaching through fences.
  • Teach your children to ask permission from the dog’s owner before petting a dog.

Continuing Promise 2011


For children:

  • Don’t run past a dog. Dogs naturally love to chase and catch things. Don’t give them a reason to become excited or aggressive.
  • Never disturb a dog that’s caring for puppies, sleeping or eating.
  • Never reach through or over a fence to pet a dog. Dogs can be protective of their territory, and may interpret your action as a threat.
  • If a dog approaches to sniff you, stay still. In most cases, the dog will go away when it determines you are not a threat.
  • If you are threatened by a dog, remain calm. Don’t scream or yell. If you say anything, speak calmly and firmly. Avoid eye contact. Try to stay still until the dog leaves, or back away slowly until the dog is out of sight. Don’t turn and run.
  • If you fall or are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your head and neck. Protect your face.

It is important to remember that all dogs will bite-even the cutest and most cuddly of dogs- can still inflict injuries to an unsuspecting person.

Unfortunately, children are the most vulnerable to bites and attacks that can result in life altering injuries. wkrg  Parents and care givers must be especially observant when children are around dogs to avoid unintended consequences.

If you remember nothing else from this short discussion of children and dogs, know that babies and young children should never be placed in close proximity to a dog. The chance of a bite is far too great a risk to take just to get a cute picture to post on the Internet. thetelegram

In a coming blog, I’ll give you my observations on the pros and cons of dog parks. Watch this space.

Jonathan R. Stephens lives in East Nashville and has been practicing general civil law for over 20 years. He is a member of the Executive Council of the Tennessee Bar Association Animal Law Section. Mr. Stephens is available for speaking engagements and may be contacted at

The content in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Contacting an attorney does not create an attorney-client relationship.  If you need specific legal advice for a case or potential case, you should retain an attorney directly rather than relying on this article. 











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