Pets bring love and companionship to families. However, more than 155,000 children in the U.S. are bitten by pets each year, and most bites occur at home with familiar pets [source: Kaiser Permanente]. Every pet has the potential to bite, especially if he or she feels scared, threatened or overly excited.
Here's how you can help keep children safe around your family's furry friends.
- Choose a pet that suits your family's lifestyle. Learn how much space and exercise a breed needs, and make sure you are committed to meeting those needs. An active terrier may need long walks and a yard to play in, while another breed's needs for exercise and space are minimal. Some breeds are great with families, while others are devoted to a single master.
- Never leave your child alone with a pet.
- Spay or neuter your pet to help decrease aggression.
- Do not play rough games, wrestle or try to hug your dog.
- Teach children not to approach Fido when he is eating.
- Never try to take a toy, bone or treat away from a pet.
- Warn your child to stay away from an animal who is caring for its young, growling or showing its teeth, or acting strangely.
Teach your children these simple rules about how to behave around an unfamiliar pet:
- Ask permission before you approach and touch someone else's pet
- If the owner says it's OK, allow the animal to sniff your closed hand
- Stand quietly and back away if you see warning signs such as growling, bared teeth, ears thrown back or staring