5 things to teach your children about interacting safely with dogs

Many children are drawn to dogs, which is why they should understand how to safely interact with them.

Though dog is man's best friend, it is a sad fact that sometimes, dogs can turn on humans in North Carolina. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 4.5 million people across the country suffer from a dog bite every year. Even worse, children are among those most at risk for being bitten.

The CDC reports that children between 5 and 9 years old experience the highest rate of injuries associated with dog bites. With that in mind, here are five items to discuss with your children regarding safety around canines:

1. Do not disturb

Children need to understand the key moments when dogs should be simply left alone - such as the old adage, "Let a sleeping dog lie." Those moments also include the following:

  • When a dog is eating or drinking
  • When a dog is with its puppies
  • When a dog is in its crate

Dogs in these situations tend to be more protective. Disturbing a dog during this time could result in aggression.

2. Do not approach unknown dogs

Dogs with which a child is unfamiliar should not be approached. If the animal is on a leash with its owner, the child should learn to ask the owner if it is safe to approach or pet it. Teach children to tell parents about stray dogs instead of trying to play with them.

3. Do not hit or try to ride a dog

Many people think it is cute to take pictures of a child "riding" a dog the way people ride horses. However, this is extremely dangerous, both for the dog and for the child. A dog could become injured due to the weight of the child. If the dog feels harm is imminent, it may lash out at the child.

Along the same lines, children should be warned against striking a dog. Dogs view this as threatening behavior and could respond maliciously.

4. Know what to do when a dog approaches

Experts advise children to learn how to "be a tree" if an unfamiliar dog is confronting them. Hands should be held tightly against their sides, and the child should look down at his or her feet until the dog leaves or help comes. Running away could make the situation worse, as many dogs like to give chase.

5. Teach the warning signs

Lastly, children should learn the signs that a dog is worried, afraid or upset. A dog whose teeth are showing or whose fur is raised is giving the signal that it wishes to be left alone.

North Carolina law

A dog bite could cause serious and life-threatening injuries. In North Carolina, a dog owner is typically liable for a bite if he or she had knowledge of the animal's dangerous tendencies. Or, the owner could be responsible if he or she failed to properly control or restrain the dog. In some cases, the person's homeowners' insurance policy may cover the cost of damages. In others, the victim may need to file a claim. North Carolina imposes a three-year statute of limitations on these lawsuits.

People who have concerns about this issue should speak with a personal injury attorney in North Carolina.