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Should parents be afraid of having their children around dogs?

There are a number of reasons why some parents are nervous about having children around dogs.  Dog bite injuries are the second most common cause of emergency room visits for kids. A majority of injuries are to hands and arms, while head and neck injuries are also common. Further, children are more susceptible to fatal injuries in dog attacks.

As renowned dog trainer, Cesar Milan says, it's not about training the dog, it's about training the people around the dog that's important. The key is knowing why dogs bite and changing a person's behavior accordingly. Essentially, dogs channel their aggression by biting. The aggression may manifest itself through dominance (protecting territory or items under its control), fear of unfamiliar people or settings, or reaction to punishment (after being hit or kicked). 

While dog attacks can be traumatic, they are also preventable. There are a couple of steps children (and adults) can take to minimize the risk of an attack from a family pet or a strange dog. First, do not approach an unfamiliar dog. Animals that are hurt or scared are more likely to defend themselves against an unfamiliar foe (usually a child). Second, do not disturb a dog that is eating, sleeping or caring for puppies. Dogs in these instances may perceive you as a threat that must be defended against.

Also, before adopting a dog, parents may want to spend some time with a dog to observe its behavior. Training a dog to be sociable or teaching submissive behavior is also important in maintaining safety.

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