Dog Bite Prevention
4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, and one in five dog bites results in injuries that require medical attention. There are ways to make dog bites less likely and to help prevent children from being bitten by dogs.
Listen to this CDC podcast to learn some steps you can take to prevent dog bites. (4:05 seconds)
How big is the problem?
- About 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year.
- Almost one in five of those who are bitten (a total of 885,000) require medical attention for dog bite-related injuries.
- In 2006, more than 31,000 people underwent reconstructive surgery as a result of being bitten by dogs.Who is most at risk?
- Children: Among children, the rate of dog bite-related injuries is highest for those ages 5 to 9 years, and children are more likely than adults to receive medical attention for dog bites than adults. Recent research shows that the rate of dogâ€“bite related injuries among children seems to be decreasing.
- Adult Males: Among adults, males are more likely than females to be bitten.
- People with dogs in their homes: Among children and adults, having a dog in the household is associated with a higher incidence of dog bites. As the number of dogs in the home increases, so does the incidence of dog bites. Adults with two or more dogs in the household are five times more likely to be bitten than those living without dogs at home.
How can dog bites be prevented?
Dog bites are a largely preventable public health problem, and adults and children can learn to reduce their chances of being bitten.
Before you bring a dog into your household:
- Consult with a professional (e.g., veterinarian, animal behaviorist, or responsible breeder) to learn what breeds of dogs are the best fit for your household.
- Dogs with histories of aggression are not suitable for households with children.
- Be sensitive to cues that a child is fearful or apprehensive about a dog. If a child seems frightened by dogs, wait before bringing a dog into your household.
- Spend time with a dog before buying or adopting it. Use caution when bringing a dog into a household with an infant or toddler.
If you decide to bring a dog into your home:
- Spay/neuter your dog (this often reduces aggressive tendencies).
- Never leave infants or young children alone with a dog.
- Don’t play aggressive games with your dog (e.g., wrestling).
- Properly socialize and train any dog entering your household. Teach the dog submissive behaviors (e.g., rolling over to expose the abdomen and giving up food without growling).
- Immediately seek professional advice (e.g., from veterinarians, animal behaviorists, or responsible breeders) if the dog develops aggressive or undesirable behaviors.
Are there safety tips for children?
To help prevent children from being bitten by dogs, teach the following basic safety tips and review them regularly:
- Do not approach an unfamiliar dog.
- Do not run from a dog or scream.
- Remain motionless (e.g., “be still like a tree”) when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
- If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and lie still (e.g., “be still like a log”).
- Do not play with a dog unless supervised by an adult.
- Immediately report stray dogs or dogs displaying unusual behavior to an adult.
- Avoid direct eye contact with a dog.
- Do not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
- Do not pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.
- If bitten, immediately report the bite to an adult.
What are CDC’s programs and activities in this area?
Campaign to Educate Georgians about Dog Bites.
CDC’s Injury Center funded the Georgia Division of Public Health to conduct a dog bite prevention campaign in Chatham, Bullock, and Effingham counties. During their first year, program staff used the Community Readiness Model to complete a needs assessment. In 2002, a random digit dial telephone survey to assess knowledge, attitudes and behaviors associated with dog bite prevention was conducted. Program staff use educational materials and media outreach to teach children, parents, dog owners, health care providers and other adults about the risk of dog bite-related injuries and about strategies for preventing such injuries.
A Community Approach to Dog Bite Prevention
Prepared by the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Task Force on Canine Aggression and Human-Canine Interactions*
Dog bites are a serious public health problem that can inflict considerable physical and emotional damage on victims and be extremely costly to communities. Decreasing dog bites requires active and ongoing community involvement; passive or periodic attention will not solve this problem. This task force report is intended to help state and local leaders find effective ways to reduce the dog bite problem in their communities. The report covers:
- Representative national statistics on the existing dog bite problem
- How to mobilize a community and the infrastructure needed to establish a program
- Specific prevention recommendations
- Recommendations for dog bite reporting
- Educational and communication approaches and targets
In summary, the report contains everything community leaders should consider when starting a dog bite prevention program. Also included are a model dog control ordinance and model legislation for the control of dangerous dogs. The report is available as a PDF on the American Veterinary Medical Association website (500KB 18 pages). *
Work with State Health Departments
CDC is committed to reducing this public health problem. CDC has worked with state health departments to establish dog bite prevention programs and continues to track and report trends on U.S. dog bite injuries. Some studies involved calling people to ask about their experience with dogs and history of being bitten, and others used data from hospitals and emergency departments to estimate the number of dog biteâ€“related injuries treated. See the publications page for a list of studies on dog bites.
Resources for More Information
US Postal Service*