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Pets, especially dogs, can be wonderful additions to a family with children. However, every year, more than 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs, with more than half of all victims younger than age 14. It’s important to consider some practical safety tips to ensuring a positive experience with dogs.

During National Dog Bite Prevention Week, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Veterinary Medical Association and the US Postal Service team up to educate Americans about dog safety.

Tips to Help Parents Protect Their Children from an Encounter with Canine Teeth:

  1. Pick a good match. Talk to your veterinarian about choosing a dog that will fit in well with your family.
  2. Socialize your pet. Gradually expose your puppy to a variety of people and other animals so it feels at ease in these situations; continue this exposure as your dog gets older.
  3. Train your dog. Commands can build a bond of obedience and trust between man and beast. Avoid aggressive games like wrestling or tug-of-war with your dog. Have your children train your dog as well. Every person in your family, regardless of size, should be the dogs’ master.
  4. Vaccinate your dog against rabies​ and other diseases.
  5. Neuter your dog. Neutered dogs are less likely to bite or be aggressive.
  6. Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
  7. Teach your child to see if the dog is with an owner and looks friendly. Then ask the owner for permission to pet the dog. Let the dog sniff your child and have your child touch the dog gently, avoiding the face, head and tail.
  8. Tell your child not to bother a dog if it is sleeping, eating or caring for puppies.
  9. Tell your child not to run past a dog.
  10. If you’re threatened by a dog, remain calm. Avoid eye contact. Stand still until the dog leaves or back away slowly. If you are knocked down, curl into a ball and protect your face with your hands. If a dog bites your child, clean small wounds with soap and water and seek medical attention for larger wounds. Contact the dog’s veterinarian to check vaccination records.