Most children love to play with cute animals, but unfortunately, this isn’t
always safe. Even if a puppy or dog is usually gentle, it’s easy
for a dog to interpret a child’s quick movements as signs of aggression.
This is one reason why children are more frequently the victims of dog
attacks than adults. The emergency care physicians of West Hills Hospital
can help children heal from an
animal bite, but prevention is always better than a trip to the hospital.
Approaching Unfamiliar Dogs
Kids need to hear information multiple times before they remember it—and
even then, they may need frequent reminders. Don’t be shy about
reminding your child to never approach unfamiliar dogs, even if a dog
wanders into your family’s own yard. If your child does see an unfamiliar
dog while playing in the yard, he or she should immediately go inside
the house and inform an adult. To reinforce this lesson, consider comparing
unfamiliar dogs to human strangers. You could remind your child that he
or she wouldn’t hug the cashier at the supermarket and that petting
an unfamiliar dog is much like this scenario.
Petting Dogs Safely
When it is permissible for a young child to pet a dog, he or she should
only do so with adult supervision. Young kids need plenty of reminders
to let the dog sniff the back of the hand first, then to pet the dog gently.
Remind your child not to pull on the dog’s ears or tail, try to
climb on the dog, or take toys or food away from the dog.
Dealing with Aggressive Dogs
Despite these safety precautions,
aggressive dogs may still attack children. Emergency care physicians recommend teaching kids to be quiet and “still
like a tree” when a dog approaches them. Kids should avoid looking
directly at the dog, making sudden movements, yelling, or hitting the
dog. If a dog does knock a child down, he or she should curl up into a
ball. Emergency care physicians recommend covering the ears and head with
If your child is attacked by a dog, please call 911 without delay to request
emergency care in the West Hills area. In addition to our unsurpassed
West Hills Hospital recently opened our Advanced Wound Care Center, which offers specialized
care for patients with traumatic and hard-to-heal wounds. Non-emergent
healthcare questions may be directed to a registered nurse at (818) 676-4321.