ATLANTA, GA - According to the ASPCA, about half of all children will be bitten by a dog before the age of 12.
Not all dog bites are considered severe. Some bites are described as just “nips”, but nearly 800,000 people require medical attention because
of a dog bite each year.
Animal trainer and behaviorist Victoria Stilwell teaches kids and their parents the correct way to interact with dogs.
"Children are naturally gregarious," Stilwell says. "They are loud, they have their body movements, their arms, running around, high pitched voices. This could all really elicit a negative reaction from a dog.”
Stilwell advises that when a child meets a dog for the first time, the child should offer an outstretched fist for the dog to
sniff before trying to pet him. According to Stilwell, the dog should always be petted under the chin. Patting a dog on top of the head could be perceived by the dog as a sign of aggression, Stilwell warns.
"If you stare at that dog, that can be seen by the dog as a threat," Stilwell states. "If you smile at that dog, you are showing your teeth,. That can be seen as a threat."
Stilwell has additional tips to prevent dog bites:
Never allow a child to put their face near a dog's face.
Never lunge at a dog, or back the dog into a corner.
Look for signs that the dog is uncomfortable, including: a tense body, an erect or slowly wagging tail, or yawning and licking their lips.