Surprising Advice on Kids and Dogs
Study: Parents Should Delay Getting a Dog Until Children Are School-Aged
WebMD News Archive
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
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
In most cases (73%), the children knew the dogs that had bitten them. But
only 33% of those dogs were "household members," the researchers
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:
- German shepherd
- Hound dog
- Bernese dog
- Labrador retriever
- Shi Tzu
German Shepherds, Dobermans
German shepherds and Dobermans accounted for 37% of the dog bites but only
13% of local dogs, note Schalamon and colleagues.
"The relative risk for a dog attack by a German shepherd or Doberman was
more than five times higher than that associated with a Labrador retriever or
cross-breeds," the researchers write.
"On the basis of the dog population in our... area, German shepherds and
Dobermans were the most aggressive breed," they continue. "These
findings are similar to other reports. However, every breed poses the threat of
Of course, many dogs never bite anyone, regardless of their breed, and a
dog's training may also be important.
Avoiding Dog Bites
"Despite possible training programs for school-aged children, it still
seems to be more reasonable to teach the dog owners and parents to pay
attention when children are close to dogs than to place the
blame/responsibility for a dog attack on the children," Schalamon and
Their study includes these tips to help avoid dog bites:
- Before petting a dog, let it sniff you.
- Do not run past dogs.
- Do not try to outrun a dog.
- Remain calm if a dog approaches.
- Do not hug or kiss a dog.
- Avoid direct eye contact.
- Do not try to stop two fighting dogs.
The researchers also offer these tips for handling dog attacks:
- If attacked, stand still (feet together) and protect your neck and face
with your arms and hands.
- Stand up. If attacked while lying down, keep your face down and cover your
ears with your hands. Do not move.