The holidays and dogs: How to avoid a bite

Holiday time is family time, but that often presents a big problem for the parents of young children because they’re likely to come in direct contact with dogs they don’t see every day.

Despite the fact that you (and their owners) may view these dogs as part of the extended family, the danger of a bite is very serious — especially where kids are concerned.

The facts about dog bites paint a grim picture

More than 4.5 million people of all ages end up bitten by dogs each year in this country — and the vast majority of them are children. In most cases, the victim isn’t bitten by dogs they don’t know. They’re more likely to be bitten by one they’ve met before — like Grandma’s dog.

The experts say that parents need to keep an eye on small children around family dogs — and that it’s not unreasonable to ask relatives and friends to put their dogs away during visits when small children are around.

In addition, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (ASPCA) says that parents should watch for the following signs that a dog is about to attack:

  • The dog’s ears are up and forward, its fur is raised and its tail is stiff and straight.
  • The dog is growling, lunging, barking and baring its teeth.
  • The dog is shrinking, hiding, lowering its ears and generally trying to look as small as possible.
  • You see a combo of these behaviors, which can signal a mix of fear and aggression.

In addition, parents should carefully watch small children to make sure they don’t try to take a dog’s toy, pillow or blanket or get near their bowl. That can provoke a dog into defensive behavior as it tries to protect its territory.

Nobody wants to think that a family pet could attack, but the danger is real. If you or your child end up injured in a dog attack, learn more about what you need to do to make sure that your medical bills and other losses are covered.