The benefits of growing up with a pet are well documented – these days dogs are even used in the classroom. That said, we sometimes forget that dogs can still present a risk.
Children under the age of 10 are most at risk of being bitten by a dog. It’s difficult to accurately estimate how often children are bitten, as not all bites result in children being taken to accident and emergency units, but bites can often lead to serious injuries with unpleasant psychological effects, including symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Children may be at greater risk of being bitten by a dog because they struggle to recognise emotions in dogs and can’t interpret their warning behaviour. Many children may know little about how to behave safely around dogs and risk bites more often than adults.
When researchers have studied how to prevent dog bites, they found that children can be taught to recognise a dog’s emotional state more accurately and to recall safety rules, like not approaching a dog when they’re eating or chained up. But knowing this didn’t make the children more likely to behave safely around dogs. Despite educational campaigns, the incidence of bog bites continued. Clearly, something was missing.
The fear factor