Risk to small children from family dog often underestimated

People trust their own dog and exclude the possibility of a bite incident. (Photo: Christian Damböck)

ChildDog  1

Dog bites suffered by young children are often inflicted by the family dog. Such incidents frequently occur despite the presence of an adult. A survey of dog owners conducted by researchers from the Institute of Animal Husbandry and Animal Welfare at Vetmeduni Vienna shows that people underestimate risky situations involving the family dog. The analysis of the survey was published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior.

Children love petting dogs, playing with them and crawling after them. They especially love to hug or cuddle the family dog. Unwanted close contact sometimes causes dogs to feel harassed and they respond by snapping at the child.

 

 

Bite incidents often occur despite supervision

“Dog owners should recognize situations in which their dog may feel harassed and they should intervene in time. Nevertheless, many bite incidents occur right in front of the adults’ eyes,” explains study director Christine Arhant from the Institute of Animal Husbandry and Animal Protection at Vetmeduni Vienna. Her team is investigating why bite incidents involving the family dog are so common even under adult supervision. The group looked at the results of an online survey in order to provide the first analysis of parental attitudes regarding the supervision of child-dog interactions.

“Most of the respondents are aware of the general risk of dog bites,” says Arhant. The majority of the participants, however, underestimated the risk involving smaller dogs. Asked to look at pictures of child-dog interactions, the respondents rated interactions with unfamiliar dogs as inherently riskier than with the family dog.

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