Annually approximately 400,000 American children receive treatment for dog bites. Young children are at greatest risk and are frequently bitten following behavior that provokes familiar dogs. This study investigated the effects of child temperament on children's interaction with dogs. Eighty-eight children aged 3.5-6 years interacted with a live dog. Dog and child behaviors were assessed through observational coding. Four child temperament constructs-impulsivity, inhibitory control, approach and shyness-were assessed via the parent-report Children's Behavioral Questionnaire. Less shy children took greater risks with the dog, even after controlling for child and dog characteristics. No other temperament traits were associated with risk-taking with the dog. Based on these results, children's behavior with unfamiliar dogs may parallel behavior with other novel or uncertain situations. Implications for dog bite intervention programs include targeting at-risk children and merging child- and parent-oriented interventions with existing programs geared toward the physical environment and the dog.
Keywords: children; dog bites; injury; shyness; temperament.