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Help Pittsburgh area children avoid dog bites

Over half of the more than 4.5 million people suffering dog bites annually are children younger than 14. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those between the ages of five and nine are the most likely to incur personal injuries, as a result of dog bites. To better protect children from dog bite injuries, the American Academy of Pediatrics has published some safety tips for dog owners and parents in Pennsylvania and across the U.S.

Pick the right breed. While it is impossible to predict how an individual dog will respond to young children, some breeds, such as Labradors, golden retrievers and collies, have earned child-friendly designations.

Socialize dogs. By exposing your dog to people and other animals, your dog will feel comfortable and not threatened by the presence of others, including small children.

Properly train your dog. Patiently teaching your dog to respond to verbal and hand commands teaches proper behavior. Avoiding "aggressive games," such as tug-of-war, also reinforces good, non-threatening behavior patterns.

Commit to good dog health. Neutering and getting all vaccinations up to date keep your dog non-aggressive, happy and healthy, reducing threats to small children.

Teach your kids how to act around dogs. Your children must learn not to pester any dog when he/she is eating, sleeping or parenting a new litter of puppies. Children must also be taught to always be cautious of dogs, both their own, as well as other animals.

Do not leave your young child alone with your dog. Even the most gentle dog can become hurt or angry, leading to a potential dog bite injury.

Teach your children how to approach dogs. While your kids' dog knows their scent, other dogs do not. Asking an owner's permission to approach a dog and letting the animal sniff children first allows the dog and the kids to become comfortable with each other.

Avoiding dog bite injuries is a cooperative effort between dogs and children. Both should be taught the proper behavior to enjoy safe encounters.

Source: HealthDay News, "Simple Steps Can Shield Children From Dog Bites," Mary Elizabeth Dallas, July 6, 2012

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