Contrary to the popular belief that only bad dogs bite, it has been found that even good dogs, if threatened or in pain can bite, argue pediatricians. Doesn't sound alarming? According to official statistics published by the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP), dogs bite nearly 4.7 million Americans every year.
More than half of all these victims are younger than 14 years of age and 150,000 of these bites are serious enough to require a visit to the emergency department, it said.
The AAP, which is trying to educate Americans on how to avoid being bitten by a dog, says infants and small children should never be left alone with a dog and children should be taught to ask permission to pet someone's dog and then avoid touching the dog's face, head and tail.
Dogs should not be 'bothered' when sleeping, eating or caring for pups.
'Any dog can bite if it feels threatened or is in pain,' AAP president Henry E. Chilers said.
When a dog threatens, it is best to remain calm and avoid eye contact with the animal. Stand still or back away slowly. If a dog knocks you down, curl into a ball and protect your face with your hands.
One way families can protect their children from dog bites is to do the homework before purchasing a family dog.
Learn about the behaviours of different breeds. Which ones are good around children? A call to the local veterinarian might be helpful before picking out one.
It is also important, according to experts, to socialise your pet - gradually expose your puppy to people and other animals to get him or her accustomed to social situations. They may be less apt to snap at people.
Training the dog is equally important. Commands can build a bond of obedience and trust between pet and pet owner, AAP notes. It is best to avoid aggressive games with your dog, like wrestling or tug-of-war.
Having the dog neutered will also decrease the likelihood of biting. It is also important to keep current on the dog's vaccinations, it said.