Pet owners should be cautioned about how changes in the household can affect the stress and anxiety of their pups, and how to reduce the risk of dog bite injuries, especially with children.
When most of the world went into lock-down, many pet owners found solace in their furry companions. The dramatic increase in time spent at home meant substantially more time to spend with our pets. For dogs, this meant more walks and playtime with their owners, but this also meant more time spent around children. According to a commentary published in the Journal of Pediatrics, the Children’s Hospital Colorado saw an increase in children with dog bite injuries since the pandemic started.
Dog bite injuries are more common during the spring and summer
When the weather starts to get warmer, it is common for emergency departments and personal injury lawyers to see an uptick in dog bite injuries. Some researchers believe that this can be attributed to many factors, including:
- Dogs may become more aggressive in hotter weather, similar to their humans.
- An increase in opportunity for hostile encounters with other dogs and humans due to more people being outdoors.
However, since the beginning of the pandemic in March, the number of dog bite injuries, especially in children, has been remarkably higher than in previous years. Reasons for this could include:
- Dogs having more exposure to children than normal
- More overall stress and anxiety in the household
- A decrease in adult supervision between dogs and children due to working from home or other responsibilities
Why do dogs bite?
As a pet owner, it is crucial that you are able to understand your dog and its behaviours so you can prevent dog bite injuries before they happen. Common reasons for why a dog may bite or attack include:
- If they feel as though they are defending or protecting themselves or their owners from danger
- If they’re put into environments that are unfamiliar to them without a proper introduction (i.e., large social gatherings, small crowded spaces, parks, another home)
- If they are cornered, stared at, or pet in a way that makes the uncomfortable
Children and dogs
It is essential to understand that just because your dog may be comfortable around adults and teenagers, does not mean they are comfortable around children. Children are full of energy, they like to touch, pull, and grab as much as possible, and they don’t understand how to read a dog’s body language. Young children may not know how to pet a dog appropriately or respect a dog’s boundaries, making them more prone to dog bite injuries.
Family dogs are typically very good with the children they live with. However, COVID-19 related stay-at-home orders could mean that your dog is spending an unaccustomed amount of time around them. Pet owners should never rule out the possibility of dog bite injuries occurring at home, no matter how friendly the dog may be.
How to prevent dog bite injuries during COVID-19
As a parent and pet owner, there are some things you can and should do to prevent dog bite injuries from occurring inside and outside of the home.
Teach children to:
- Move slowly when around dogs
- Not run from or past dogs
- Ask permission before petting another person’s dog, and not to reach between or over fences to pet them
- Let the dog sniff their hand before touching it
- Never disturb a dog who is sleeping, eating, chewing a bone or toy, or caring for puppies
- Not be aggressive or rough when playing with or petting dogs
As a pet owner:
- Properly train and socialize dogs at a young age and throughout their life
- Always supervise your dog when around children and infants
- Understand the signs of aggression and distress your dog may display
- Always keep your dog on a leash when walking them
- Give your dog a space of their own; this should be a ‘dog only zone’ like a crate, bed, or small room
Being a pet owner comes with tremendous responsibility. Pets enrich our lives and provide comfort and affection in ways that other humans can’t. For children, dogs teach compassion, responsibility and can give a feeling of security and pride. While there are endless ways that pets positively impact our lives, there are risks that come with cohabiting with them. Properly training your dog and educating yourself, friends, and family on how to interact with them will reduce the risk of dog bite injuries and other harmful or dangerous situations.