Kids, some dogs don’t mix

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: June 13th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Dogs are man’s best friend, but they can be a child’s worst nightmare.

By some estimates, one in every two people is bitten by a dog during childhood. The consequences can include hospitalization, scarring, psychological trauma, even death.

It’s well known that some dog breeds are more likely to bite than others. But a study published in the March issue of the journal Pediatrics suggests the risk of dog bite also varies from child to child.

Researchers with the University of Graz [Grotts] in Austria analyzed the medical charts of more than three-hundred dog bite incidents involving children age sixteen and younger.

They found one-year-olds were most likely to be bitten, accounting for about twelve percent of the total. The number of dog bites declined steadily among older groups of children.

At least two factors contributed to the high incidence of bites among toddlers.

First, little can be done to instruct young children about how to behave around canines.

Second, dogs tend to regard smaller animals as subordinate. So they may interpret a toddler’s innocent behavior, such as staring, as a challenge that must be answered.

These problems don’t just apply to strange dogs. In three-quarters of the cases examined, the animals were familiar to their victims.

So, parents take heed… the authors recommend that families not get a dog until all children in the household are school age.

That advice might be extreme, but when you consider the alternative, it’s doggone sensible.