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Teach children how to be safe around dogs this summer

Now that children are finishing school, the family can look forward to summer barbeques, trips to the park and plenty of outdoor activities. Man's best friend, whether they belong to you or someone else, will probably also partake in the sunny weather.

However, the increased comingling of children and dogs can lead to greater chances of tragedy. Some Illinois families may suffer a dog attack this summer, which can be especially dangerous for small children. To counter this hazard, parents should teach their children how to interact with dogs ahead of time.

How to treat friendly dogs

Although dogs are known for their gentle nature, any dog can become hostile in a moment's notice. Unfortunately, children might not understand which actions could provoke an otherwise friendly dog to attack.

For this reason, parents should talk to their children about how to respect a dog's personal space. Teach children which "zones" are best to pet and which areas to avoid touching. "Stranger danger" should also apply to pets; parents should provide permission before their child approaches a dog.

Young children and toddlers tend to grab and scratch pets without realizing that they cause pain, so they may require close supervision around dogs.

Many children become frightened if a dog jumps up on them while excited. Children should be prepared to stay calm and recognize the signs of a happy dog versus an angry dog.

Responding to aggressive dogs

Regardless of a child's actions, dogs can suddenly become violent or chaotic. The ability to respond to an angry dog carefully could save the child's life, especially if there are no adults around.

If a child encounters a hostile dog, the Humane Society recommends the following stepsto protect themselves:

  1. Don't run away, but stay very still and move away in slow-motion if the dog is distracted
  2. Don't look the dog in the eyes or make loud noises
  3. Use a backpack as a shield if possible
  4. If the dog knocks them over, they should tuck their knees to their chest, cover their ears with their hands and stay still

Happy dogs could even attack a child if they believe that it's a game. Bites and attacks may cause disease, disfigurement or death. If a child respected the dog's space and it still attacked them, the owner may be held accountable for the emotional and physical damage in court.

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