COLORADO SPRINGS — Children’s Hospital Colorado and the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region (HSPPR) are partnering to educate families this Dog Bite Prevention Week.

According to a press release sent out by the partnership, Animal Law Enforcement officers responded to more than 2,000 calls about aggressive domestic pets in El Paso and Pueblo counties in 2021.

In the same year, dog bites were also the 7th leading cause of injury for pediatric patients needing trauma care in the Children’s Colorado emergency department. Of those needing trauma care, 45% of injuries were caused by a family pet and 27% were caused by a friend or neighbor’s pet.

“Some dogs may be around children more than others,” said Amanda Abramczyk-Thill of Children’s Hospital Colorado. “We don’t want to just assume a dog is going to know what to do, or that a child is going to know what to do, when they approach a dog.”

HSPPR and Children’s Hospital Colorado suggested tips for parents and responsible dog owners to keep your pets and your family safe.

For pet owners:

  • Monitor your dog’s behavior any time they are around children. If your dog is reactive around children, avoid walking your dog in areas where children frequently play.
  • If your dog shows any signs that they are uncomfortable, safely remove the child or the dog from the situation. Dog stress signs can include lip licking, rapid eye movement, panting, pacing, freezing, tense body, raising hackles, growling, and/or barking.
  • Advocate for your dog and tell children and/or adults to stop petting and stand back from your dog if it displays stress signs. Stress signs are warning signals that your dog is more likely to bite.

For parents:

  • Always have your child ask the owner for permission before petting a dog. Have them start by petting them on the back, staying away from their face. 
  • Teach children to treat pets with respect. Don’t let them pull the animal’s tail, ride on them, or pull their ears.
  • Supervise children when they’re around dogs. Make sure they don’t approach them when they are eating, playing with toys or sleeping, or have puppies. Approaching a dog in these situations may cause them to respond in a territorial or surprised way.
  • Teach children to stand still, put their arms to their sides, and look at their shoes if a dog exhibits aggressive behaviors. Be as boring as possible and wait for the dog to leave before moving.
  • Teach children that dogs can display body language that shows when they are stressed, anxious, or afraid. These can include flattened ears, lip licking, tail between legs, yawning, shaking, hard staring, barking, and growling.

“It is important to practice responsible pet ownership and understand basic dog body language to help keep children and dogs safe,” said Tom Schermerhorn, Youth Education Manager at HSPPR. “Adult supervision while interacting with pets is always recommended, even with social dogs, and especially for children under ten years old.”

For more information on dog or animal bite injury prevention or general hospital information, visit childrenscolorado.org. To report a dangerous/aggressive animal situation involving a domestic pet, call Animal Law Enforcement at 719-302-8798, or call 911.

Visit hsppr.org to learn more.