Q: We have two dogs. Our 6-month-old just loves them. He is always talking to them, leaning forward and trying to touch them. Should we let him? We are anxious for them to learn to co-exist as soon as possible.
A: Dog bites can be dreadful. We have seen a number of children whose faces have been permanently disfigured or who have had to undergo plastic surgery procedures because of dog bites.
We believe concern for the child should always be higher than concern for dogs. So the first question we would ask is: Have your dogs ever bitten anyone? Are they a breed known to be likely to bite?
If the answers to any of these questions raise doubts about your son's safety, we would recommend complete separation. If your dogs pass all those tests, we'd recommend that you provide hands-on supervision of any contact between your son and your dogs.
Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.