published Thursday, July 5th, 2012

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Q: My family has never had a dog, and I am afraid of them. I don't want my daughter to have my fears. How can I teach her to be safe around dogs?

A: Teach your daughter to always check with a dog's owner to see if it is friendly and to ask permission before petting it. Allow the dog to sniff your hand first, then if it seems friendly, gently pet it, avoiding the face, head or tail. Never bother a dog that is sleeping, eating or caring for puppies. If you feel threatened or scared, remain calm and stand still or back away slowly. If you are knocked down, curl up in a ball and protect your face with your hands. If you or your child is bitten by a dog, immediately wash the bite very well with lots of water and soap, and seek medical attention. You might need antibiotics or a tetanus shot. You also will need to verify the dog's vaccination status with its vet.

— Dr. Tonia Cox, Pediatric Diagnostics Associates; member, Chattanooga Hamilton County Medical Society

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