Apr 15, 2001 Table of Contents

Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education Web site.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Preventing Dog Bites

Am Fam Physician. 2001 Apr 15;63(8):1573-1574.

Avoiding Dog Bites

Most dogs will never bite anyone. However, any dog may bite if it feels threatened. Children are the most common victims of dog bites. Infants and young children should never be left alone with a dog.

What should I do if I want to get a dog?

Take time to learn about the breed of dog you want. To learn about dog breeds, talk with a veterinarian, read books about dogs and search the Internet. Don't get a dog only because of the way it looks. If you have an infant or young child, think about getting a puppy. Be especially careful if you have a baby in your house. Aggressive dog breeds aren't right for families with children. Neutered male dogs are generally less aggressive.

Consider taking your new dog to obedience school. Keep your dog's immunizations up to date. Have your dog checked regularly by a veterinarian.

What do I tell my children about dogs?

  • Don't go near strange dogs.

  • Never bother a dog that is eating, sleeping or caring for puppies.

  • Tell an adult about any stray dogs.

  • Always have an adult with you when you play with a dog.

  • Never tease a dog.

  • Never pet a dog without first letting it smell you.

What should I tell my children to do when a dog approaches them?

  • Don't run away and scream.

  • Stand very still, “like a tree” (See Picture 1).

  • Avoid making direct eye contact with the dog.

  • If you fall or are knocked down, act “like a log” (See Picture 2).

  • When the dog understands that you are not a threat, it will probably walk away.

  • If a dog bites you, tell an adult right away.


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A dog is a wonderful addition to a family, but it can be a problem if you aren't careful. Always talk to children about how they should act when they're with a dog. Remember that dogs can feel threatened by new surroundings or strangers.


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This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at http://familydoctor.org.

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.

Copyright © 2001 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact afpserv@aafp.org for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

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