Skip to content

Prevent Dog Bites

About 800,000 people – most of them children – are treated for dog bites each year. From 15,000 to 39,000 of those bitten or wounded by a dog must be vaccinated for rabies as a precaution.

To protect yourself and your children, it's crucial that you teach your children how to interact with animals in a humane, respectful way and that you set a good example for them to follow.

Teach Kids to Treat Animals with Respect

To protect your child from dog bites:

  • Always treat pets and animals with respect, and teach your children – including toddlers – to be very gentle and careful around pets.
  • Teach children to never approach a stray dog or even a neighbor's dog, unless the owner says it's OK.
  • Teach children to never reach through a fence or cage to pet a dog.
  • Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
  • Teach your children to always ask permission from a dog's owner before petting a dog.
  • Teach children not to run past a dog.
  • Teach children to never disturb a dog that is caring for puppies, or sleeping or eating.

Teach Your Child How to Meet a Dog (pdf)

If Threatened or Attacked by a Dog

  • Never turn your back on a dog and run away.
  • Remain calm.
  • Stand still until the dog goes away, or if you have to move, back away slowly while continuing to face the dog.
  • Do not scream or make other loud or threatening noises.
  • Do not look directly into the dog's eyes. Instead, look somewhere over his head.
  • Shield yourself with books, packages, an open umbrella, or by extending your arm across your waist with your fist clenched.
  • Give firm, simple commands, such as no, stay, and down.
  • If attacked, drop to the ground and curl up into a ball with your hands over your face and neck. Play dead.

Tips for Raising a Well-Behaved Dog

  • Neuter or spay your pet – this helps reduce the likelihood he or she will bite. It's especially effective at curbing aggressive tendencies in male dogs.
  • Dogs that are tied or chained up, especially for hours at a time, often become so stressed they become overly protective of their space. Many cities, including some in South Carolina, have made the practice illegal. Fencing your yard so that pets can move about freely and allowing pets to live inside are more humane options.
  • Dogs that are forced to spend a lot of time alone, either in a backyard or confined to a crate or a room, are more likely to show aggression. Dogs are highly social animals and they need companionship. Spend as much time as possible with your pet daily.
  • Avoid highly excitable games like wrestling or tug-of-war. Do not teach your dog to chase after someone even in play. Dogs can't tell the difference between play and real life situations.
  • Keep your dog healthy with up to date vaccines for rabies, distemper and other diseases. Control fleas, ticks and other parasites. How your dog feels directly affects how he behaves.
  • Never put your dog in a position where he feels threatened or teased.
  • Gradually socialize your puppy so he feels at ease around many different types of people, animals and situations. Continue to expose your dog to different situations as he gets older.
  • Train your dog using fun activities that teach basic commands like sit, stay, no, and come. This builds trust. Never send your dog away to be trained.
  • Use a leash in public to ensure you are able to control your dog. (Most local governments have leash laws, so this will help you avoid fines as well.)
  • License your dog with your local government if required. If you have a fenced yard, make sure gates are secure.
  • Walk and exercise your dog regularly to keep him healthy and provide mental stimulation.
  • The very first time your dog bites someone or exhibits any other aggressive behavior toward any person, seek professional help from your veterinarian, an animal behaviorist, or a qualified dog trainer.