To a large degree, it comes down to common sense, but special precautions may be necessary during the summer. The new study from Buffalo, in detached clinical language, found "a high correlation between increased ambient temperature and incidence of dog bites."
In other words, be wary of sweaty dogs.
The study was limited to children who required surgery because of bites to the head or neck, and most of those injuries were to the cheeks, lips, nose and ears. Some 35 surgical repairs were performed under general anesthesia, and they consisted of closing complex wounds and punctures and attempting to replace flesh that had been ripped from the child.
None of the children died, reflecting one of the few encouraging statistics in this and several other studies. Fatal attacks are still rare, considering the overall number of people attacked each year, but one out of every five people who are bitten require medical attention. In 2006, according to the CDC, 31,000 people required reconstructive surgery.
Those are alarming statistics, but to be fair, dogs also play an important role in many lives. They ease the suffering of many who would otherwise be left alone, they can be a very helpful and satisfying companion, and yes, they can be a child's best friend.
But the new study contends that even a gentle dog can be provoked to attack, especially if it's territory is threatened, or it is startled by an unexpected move.
And they can really bite. The study notes that a typical dog has a jaw capable of exerting 200 to 400 pounds per square inch. That rises to 1,800 pounds per square inch among pit bulls.
The study continues:
Dogs "may bite repeatedly and shake the victim vigorously, causing more trauma or 'hole and tear' effect." Children, it warns, have few defenses, they probably cannot outrun the dog if they get in trouble, and the head of a child is an easy mark for an angry dog.
So, it doesn't make sense to invite an aggressive dog into the family. Find a nice, gentle animal instead, and keep your eye on him.