New research has determined the kind of dogs that are more likely to attack children and cause serious injury or death.
The research also offers advice on how to prevent child and dog interactions from going dangerously wrong.
In Australia, according to a 2017 study, an average of 2061 people were treated in hospital each year for dog bite injuries between 2001 and 2013. Children and the elderly were more at risk.
The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) says that countries that have banned certain breeds, such as the Netherlands, Germany and Italy, later repealed the legislation because it had no effect on decreasing the number of dog attacks.
The AVA says the community would benefit more from regulating animal and people behaviour.
Researchers from the Ohio State University College of Medicine have made an each-way bet. In a new study, they found that the breed – or at least the build of a dog – does play a part in attacks on children.
According to a statement from the university, the researchers explored the risks of dog bite injuries to the face in children and bite severity by breed, size and head structure.
Pitbulls named, but mainly it’s mixed breeds
Pitbulls – the only breed named in the study – and “mixed-breed dogs” had the highest risk of biting and caused the most damage per bite.
The same goes for dogs with wide and short heads weighing between 30 kilograms and 45 kilograms.
Dr Garth Essig, lead author and otolaryngologist at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Centre said: “Because mixed-breed dogs account for a significant portion of dog bites, and we often didn’t know what type of dog was involved in these incidents, we looked at additional factors that may help predict bite tendency when breed is unknown, like weight and head shape.”
To assess bite severity, researchers reviewed 15 years of dog-related facial trauma cases from Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the University of Virginia Health System. They looked at wound size, tissue tearing, bone fractures and other injuries severe enough to warrant consultation by a facial trauma and reconstructive surgeon and created a damage-severity scale.
Sit, stay: And that’s the children you’re talking to
The researchers determined the circumstances that cause a dog to bite varied, and may be influenced by breed behaviour tendencies and the behaviour of the victim, parents and dog owner.
“Children imitate their parents,” said Meghan Herron, associate professor of veterinary clinical services at Ohio State’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
“Be a model for your child and avoid any confrontational or risky interactions that might trigger a fear or fear-aggression response if the child were to mimic it.
“This includes harsh reprimands, smacking, pushing off of furniture and forcibly taking away an item.”
Dr Herron provided the following tips for dog owners:
- Most bites to children occur when a family dog is resting and the child approaches. Try to provide and encourage resting places away from where children run and play
- Many bites to children occur even when an adult is in the room. If you can’t devote your attention to the interactions between the dog and child, it may be best to have a physical barrier between them, such as a baby gate or crate for the dog. This is especially important for toddlers whose behaviours may be more erratic, unpredictable or frightening to a dog
- Teach children to let resting dogs lie and to stay out of dog crates, beds and other resting places that are designated for the dog. If the dog’s favourite spot is on the couch, put a towel or blanket down to clearly delineate the dog space versus child space
- Children should not approach, touch or otherwise interact with dogs while they are eating. Provide quiet areas for dogs to eat away from areas where children run and play. Rawhides and other flavoured chews should only be given when dogs are separated from child play areas
- Teach children to find an adult if a dog takes one of their toys or snacks. Children should never attempt to retrieve these items themselves.