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What to Do If a Dog Bites Your Child

Photograph by Getty Images

It was the first week of summer break and the world was our oyster. Then, a neighbor's dog bit my my 6-year-old.

My son was scootering to the park in the middle of the road, when our neighbor's dog—a 150-pound Malamute mix—charged him. My son, armed with only a pink scooter and a helmet, turned his body to avoid the open mouth of the dog, which was more three times bigger than him.

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As he turned, the dog bit our son on the shoulder. I heard him scream and ran outside. When I saw the gash in his back, I got him safely home and went straight to the neighbor's house.

Here's what I learned:

1. Call the police

We did not call the police, because we didn't want to get our neighbor in trouble, but that was a mistake. The police need to know when a dog has a history of biting. They also, by most county laws, need to quarantine the animal for 10 days to make sure he or she does not exhibit signs of rabies.

2. Visit the doctor



We didn't do this either, but wish we had. If a child goes to an ER with a dog bite, that case must be reported to the police. It is an expensive option, depending on how your insurance handles ER visits, but it takes away the responsibility of getting the police involved. At the very least see your pediatrician if the bite has penetrated the skin.

3. Ask for the dog to be removed from the neighborhood

If the owner cannot contain the dog, chances are the dog will bite again. Our owner has offered to hire a trainer to help with the dog's aggression but has not committed to moving the dog to a more appropriate owner, and we cannot make him do so. Laws vary on this, but for our situation, chances are the dog will live next door for a long time.

4. Show your kids that not all dogs bite

Fortunately for us, we have a great family dog that our son loves, and we made sure to have him spend time with a dog that is well-adjusted and patient with him.

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5. Remind him of dog rules

While our son was a victim of an unprovoked attack, every day children are bitten because they are "playing" with dogs by getting in their faces or grabbing their tails. No matter how friendly a dog is, it will always defend itself, and this kind of "fun" at the expense of a dog's patience may result in a nip or full on bite.

Photo by Twenty20/JonahSeeni


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