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Say 'Aaah' | Kid Health

Safety With Canine Pals

May 15, 2000|EMILY DWASS

Dogs are loved and important members of many families, and they can be kids' best friends.

But it might surprise you to know that each year more than 4 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs, and most of those victims are kids.

"We don't want people to get hysterical and give away their dogs," says Nancy Peterson, a pet specialist with the Humane Society, but adults and children should be taught how to avoid bites.

Peterson explains that you should never bother a dog that is eating, sleeping or playing with a toy. It's especially important not to distract a dog with puppies because she can be very protective of them.

If you meet up with a dog you don't know, don't approach it or try to become friends with it because it may think you are a threat. (Peterson warns that a wagging tail does not always mean a dog is friendly.)

But what should you do if a dog comes after you?

Even if the dog scares you, do not scream and run away. Instead, try to stand very still, with your hands at your side. Don't look at the dog and don't talk to it.

By looking down at the ground and standing quietly, the dog probably will lose interest in you. When this happens, Peterson says, you should slowly back away.

If the dog pursues you, put something between you and the dog, such as your backpack. Don't throw it at the dog, just put it gently down on the ground. Let the dog chew on your backpack while you move away from it.

If a dog knocks you down, curl into a ball and put your hands over your ears. Try not to roll around or scream. If you see another child get attacked by a dog, don't try to pull off the animal. Instead, find an adult to help and call 911.

All dog bites need to be treated by a doctor. Although most dogs are not dangerous, some can be annoying, like when they jump on us. If your dog does this, it should be taught better behavior by a professional trainer.

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Kids and other readers can reach Emily Dwass at emilydwass@yahoo.com.

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