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Surprising Advice on Kids and Dogs

Study: Parents Should Delay Getting a Dog Until Children Are School-Aged
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 6, 2006 -- To curb kids' risk of dog bites, a new study recommends that parents delay getting dogs until kids are old enough to go to school.

"Any dog may attack," write the researchers. They included Johannes Schalamon, MD, of the pediatric surgery department at the Medical University of Graz in Graz, Austria.

Schalamon's team studied all children -- 341 kids -- treated at their hospital for dog bites from 1994 to 2003. Data included the kids' ages and the dogs' breeds.

The study shows that young kids are most likely to get bitten, and that the risk of dog bites varied among certain dog breeds. The report appears in Pediatrics' online edition.

Youngest Kids, Biggest Risk

Young kids accounted for most of the patients. One-year-olds had the highest dog bite rate. Nearly three-quarters of patients were less than 10 years old.

In most cases (73%), the children knew the dogs that had bitten them. But only 33% of those dogs were "household members," the researchers write.

Kids were typically bitten in the face, head, or neck. Six percent of kids had more than one injury from their dog bite. Afterward, among the 341 kids, five children reported having nightmares and 34 remained afraid of dogs. No dog bites were fatal.

Most dog bites happened when the child interfered with the dog, such as pulling the dog's tail or disturbing an eating dog. However, some children were bitten after running or biking past dogs without touching those dogs.

Breed by Breed

The researchers also checked which dog breeds accounted for the bites and how common those breeds were in the area.

Based on those data, they ranked the breeds by risk of dog bite. Here is their list, from highest to lowest risk:

  1. German shepherd
  2. Doberman
  3. Spitz
  4. Pekingese
  5. Dachshund
  6. Schnauzer
  7. Collie
  8. Hound dog
  9. Poodle
  10. Rottweiler
  11. Beagle
  12. Terrier
  13. Bernese dog
  14. Labrador retriever
  15. Cross-breed
  16. Spaniel
  17. Shi Tzu
  18. Maltese

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