Researchers at the University of Lincoln found the majority of children under the age of seven do not see the warning signs when dogs are angry.
Children are being bitten by dogs because they think the animals are smiling when they bare their teeth, scientists said
The team tracked the eye movements of children and found they tended to look only at a dog's mouth, ignoring other signs of aggression that adults see, such as the changed position of ears.
The scientists concluded that children could be putting themselves at risk of being bitten by the family pet because they cannot read dogs’ body language.
To combat the risk, they joined vet Dr Tiny de Keuster to produce a DVD to help raise parents’ awareness, which was presented to the World Safety Conference in London yesterday.
Research leader Kerstin Meints said: “The child may not have a dog at home, but most youngsters will come into contact with one.
“While the DVD can’t guarantee the child will never get bitten, it will, hopefully, help reduce the chances.”
Surveys have shown that 43% of school children have been bitten, usually at home by a familiar dog. Some suffer serious injuries.
Holly Limbrick, four, of west London, was bitten by the Border Collie of a family friend as she tried to kiss the animal goodbye.
Her mother Claire said: “Now if we see big dogs, she asks whether they’re friendly which has never happened before.”
The DVD is being distributed to pet shops and schools.
People are waiting to help.