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Whenever children are walking to school, biking through the neighborhood or just playing with their friends in a yard, they are vulnerable to dog attacks.
To be fair, dogs aren't the biggest risk that children face growing up. Organized sports, for example, are 10 times more likely to result in a child's trip to the emergency room than are dogs.
The good news is that experts say the signs are usually there long before a dog attacks -- and you can teach children to look out for those signals. The dog is typically young, male and unneutered. He is usually unsocialized, a backyard dog with little to no interaction with the family. He is often inadvertently trained to be vicious by being kept full-time on a chain or in a small kennel run.
And although in most cases the dog involved in a serious attack is the family's own, it's also true that many neighborhoods are not safe for walking or biking because of a dog. These animals are accidents waiting to happen because their owners either don't know or don't care that their dogs are a public menace.
Is there a dog like this in your neighborhood -- or in your own yard? If it's the latter, call your veterinarian and arrange for your pet to be neutered, and then ask for a referral to a behaviorist who can help you rehabilitate your pet. Don't put this off: Your dog is a danger, and your own family is at risk.
Of course, you can't control what other people do with their animals. That's why you have to make sure your children know how to behave around dogs to protect themselves. Here's what everyone should know, and what parents need to teach their children:
Discuss safe behavior with your children and role-play how to approach dogs, when not to approach, and what to do if confronted or attacked.
You don't need to scare your children, but you do need to make sure they're ready, just in case. And going over the "what ifs" isn't a bad idea for you as well.
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