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Which dogs are most likely to bite kids?

Two children washing a dog.

June 10, 2019—Every year in the U.S., 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs, and young children often bear the brunt of those bites. Kids ages 5 to 9 are the most likely to need medical treatment for their injuries.

Now a study may offer some crucial guidance if you're a parent who's about to add a dog to your family.

Breed, size and shape all matter

The study was designed to find out which specific breeds bit most—and most severely. But because mixed breeds account for a significant portion of dog bites, and because the researchers often didn't know what breed was involved, they also looked at dogs' physical traits.

Researchers reviewed 15 years of hospital data on dog-related facial trauma in children, as well as studies dating back to 1970.

They found that pit bulls and mixed breeds pose the highest risk of biting and do the most damage per bite. But head shape and overall size were important factors as well. The dogs most prone to bite and injure kids had wide and short heads and weighed between 66 and 100 pounds.

Protect your child

Any dog—even sweet-tempered ones—can bite in the wrong circumstances. These tips from the study authors and the American Academy of Pediatrics can help keep your child safe:

  • Never leave a small child alone with a dog. But be aware that many kids get bitten when an adult is in the same room. So unless you can closely supervise a child and dog when you're nearby, it's a good idea to separate them with a physical barrier, such as a baby gate.
  • Teach your child never to approach a dog that's sleeping or eating. And pick a quiet place for dogs to eat—away from where your child plays.
  • Caution your child never to try to take back a toy or snack that a dog has snatched. Tell your child to ask an adult for help.
  • Teach your child to move calmly and slowly around dogs. And be a good role model—do the same yourself.
  • Don't let your child wrestle with your dog or play aggressive games, such as tug of war.

The study appeared in the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology.

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