What to Do When a Dog Bites a Child

Kids love to play with dogs, they find the back and forth barking fascinating. No wonder it is estimated that 60% of dog bite victims are children, most of them between five and nine years old. At times they want to hug the dog but they do it too tightly. This explains why most injuries are found on the neck or face. In 2019 only, dog owners paid a hefty 675 million dollars in dog-related liability claims. Considering that this is in the U.S. only, what about global statistics? 

It is believed dog bites happen every 75 minutes and while most of them can be treated at home, several will require medical attention. Parents and guardians can minimize these instances by learning the dog’s ‘language’ and passing on this knowledge to their children. By dog language we mean response, how they like to be handled, and how to know when they are moody – yes, dogs get moody too. 

When a Dog Bites a Child, attend to the child first, ensure you minimize blood loss. Wash the wound with soap under running water. Seal the wound with a sterile bandage or a clean cloth, and have the child checked by the doctor especially if the wound is large or if the dog is a stray dog.

But before we get here, the big question is, how do we prevent these dog bites? Let’s have a look at a few guidelines.

Preventing dog bites

I choose prevention over cure every chance I have to and I know you probably do too. This is what you can do to minimize the chances of your child suffering a dog bite.

  1. If you intend to keep a pet dog, be careful when choosing lest you choose one with a bad temperament.
  2. Do not leave a child to play with the dog unsupervised especially if the dog is not trained.
  3. Train them to avoid stray dogs or any other dog they are not familiar with. Stray dogs should be reported. If the dog has an owner and expresses interest, the child can request the owner to allow her to pet it.
  4. Disallow children to chase, hit, or yell at dogs. This irritates them and they can easily bite as a result of the stress. Kids should also not be allowed to ride on dogs, pull their tail or ears, ride, or sleep on them.
  5. When faced by an aggressive dog, teach the children not to run but stand still instead, head bowed looking at their toes. In case they fall, they should curl tightly and cover the face with their arms.
  6. Let kids know dogs love privacy too. They should not be disturbed when they are eating or feeding their puppies, and when they are sleeping. Kids should not force a dog to play, when it doesn’t want to, it should be let go until it comes back.

If you have done all this and still the bite happens, what do you do?

What to do after a dog bites a child

In anger, most people turn on the dog first and unleash their wrath; this isn’t the right way of handling the incident. Here is what you can do.

1. Give first aid

If the child is bleeding, manage the bleeding first. Get a clean towel and cover the wound to minimize blood loss. It also helps to elevate the injured body part. Clean the wound by washing it with running water and a bit of soap. If you have an antibiotic ointment, apply as per instructions. Use a sterile bandage to cover the wound where possible. In case you don’t have, use a clean cloth to cover.

2. Restrain the dog

It’s important to cage the dog to avoid him attacking another person. Do not punish the dog for the aggressiveness, it may fear and become rougher. Allow a specialist to help examine the behavior and advice accordingly. In severe aggressive cases, neutering the dog can be a solution, but that’s for later, first take step 3.

3. Get medical assistance

If a bite is minor, you can nurse it at home as you observe it. Minor bites are common as children try to play and bond with the furry friend. Ensure no redness, swelling or pus appears on the injury.

If the dog bite left a deep wound or it was from a stray dog, get the child checked promptly to avoid infections such as rabies and tetanus. In case you are the owner of the dog, let the doctor have the full information on its vaccinations. The doctor may also need to know if the dog was provoked or not.

Other important information includes whether the child has other conditions that suppress their immune system. These include diseases like liver disease, diabetes, and others.

What if the dog is yours? What do you do?

Disown the dog? Not unless the dog has shown no improvement after training, we recommend you keep it. Most dogs exhibit aggression after triggers, for instance, if a child mistreats it. There could be other triggers that you may not notice so it’s advisable to get a professional to help pinpoint and eliminate them.

You may need to keep the dog away from the children, using a cage or leash will help when you are not around to supervise. This may cause a bit of discomfort to the dog and affect the quality of its life as well as your family

A pet professional will help monitor the dog’s behavior and train it on how to deal with its stressors. There are various programs that can be implemented, these include counter-conditioning and desensitization.

Final remarks

The key to avoiding dog bites is learning how to prevent them and teaching the kids as well. But, dogs are still animals and sometimes they will misjudge play for attack or just get irritated and fail to restrain. As you train kids, it’s important to approach the topic from ‘respecting the animal’ point of view. Avoid training them just how to avoid dog bites or instilling fear. This makes them gentle and mindful around the dogs.


Am a graduate sociologist and a regular contributor to national publications such as the American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Journal of Applied Social Science and the Annual Review of Sociology.

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