Keeping safe around dogs this summer
We've teamed up with St John Ambulance to help children, adults and four-legged friends enjoy a carefree, happy summer in parks and public spaces. We're issuing practical steps to help you stay safe around dogs and we're also offering first aid advice in case of an incident involving a dog bite.
The simple message is, any dog can bite, and to 'Be alert, Be aware, Be safe'.
St John Ambulance, the first aid and health charity, wants the public to know how to respond on the scene of a dog attack (before expert medical attention arrives) and know what steps to take to avoid an attack in the first place.
There are an estimated 13 million dogs in the UK and whilst the most serious and fatal attacks happen in the home, NHS data shows dog bites (also referred to as 'strikes' when the injury differs from a bite) have risen by 17% from 7,424 in 2020/21 to 8,655 in 2021/22.
Attacks on children aged 0-4 increased from 565 in 2020/21 to 614 in 2021/22 and there was also an increase in attacks on 10-14-year-olds from 306 to 378.
We've teamed up with St John Ambulance and are urging the public to follow the CFSG's Dog Safety Code and take three simple steps to stay safe around dogs:
1. Be alert
Always keep an eye on your dog around kids, never leave them alone together.
2. Be aware
Get to know your dog, dogs use signals to tell us how they feel.
3. Be safe
Any dog can bite, accidents happen fast.
Our dog welfare expert, Dr Samantha Gaines said:
Many of us can recognise some of the clear signs that a dog gives to indicate that they're frightened or unhappy, such as showing their teeth or growling. But there are more subtle signals that our dogs give us to tell us that they're feeling uncomfortable and it's really important that parents and children understand these and react accordingly.
Yawning, lip licking, lowering their head and putting their ears back, avoiding eye contact, raising a front paw, and tucking their tail are all early signs that a dog needs some space and feels anxious.
Children can be very difficult for dogs to understand. They tend to get very close to dogs, which dogs can find threatening. It's important children learn not to approach dogs when they're sleeping, eating or playing with a toy. Parents should always supervise childrens' interactions with dogs.
If, unfortunately, you do witness a dog attack, it's extremely important to assess the scene.
Head of clinical operations at St John Ambulance, Steve Hatton, advises:
If the dog attack's still active, call 999 ASAP and ask for the police and ambulance. Be clear to the operator the attack is ongoing - the police will task specialist resources to secure the dog.
Scene safety is a serious consideration during an active dog attack, and although our instinct is to rush in and help, any would be rescuer is likely to be injured also, so it's important to assess the situation, and if safe to do so, approach but call for professional help immediately.
First aid steps to take for a dog bite injury
- Danger - is it safe to approach?
- Response - are they awake? Introduce yourself and ask them questions to see if you can get a response. Try to keep them calm.
- Control major blood loss - heaving bleeding that may pump or squirt out quickly needs urgent management by pressing a dressing or clean cloth firmly onto the wound to stop major blood loss.
- Airway - check the airway is open and clear. Open the airway by placing one hand on the forehead to tilt the head back and use two fingers from the other hand to lift the chin. If unresponsive, move on to breathing (see next point) as quickly as possible.
- Breathing - are they breathing normally? Place your ear above their mouth, looking down their body. Listen for sounds of breathing and see if you can feel their breath on your cheek. Watch to see if their chest moves. Do this for 10 seconds.
- Circulation - once you have checked they're breathing, look and check for signs of other bleeding.
In the UK, there's no risk of rabies from a dog bite. However, there are risks from bacterial infections, including tetanus, so it's important to:
- Remove any obvious foreign body from the wound eg. a tooth, hair or dirt;
- Irrigate with warm running water;
- After washing, cover the wound with a dry dressing or clean cloth;
- Take paracetamol or ibuprofen to ease any pain;
- Seek medical assessment from A&E or a Minor Injury Unit. If unsure, call 111.
Despite the rise in dog attacks, serious dog attacks are still, on the whole, extremely rare. Yet it's vital parents, children and dog owners understand dog behaviour and look for signs they're not happy and know how to react if a dog is showing signs of discomfort.
We want everyone to have a safe and happy summer - dogs too - so please remember: 'Be alert, Be aware, Be safe'.
- Remember: breed is not a good indicator of risk. Any dog has the potential to use aggression or bite if they feel threatened, frightened or in pain so it's important to know the signs to look for around all dogs, whether they're known pets or strangers.
- We're urging the Government to end BSL. This legislation labels dogs as 'dangerous' due to their appearance - and enforces a worrying message that only some dogs have the potential to bite. We want to see more focus on educating people about how to safely interact with dogs and better early intervention with dogs who have displayed early signs of behavioural problems.