You Can Help Prevent Dog Bites
April 9 through April 15, 2017 is National Dog Bite Prevention Week. As pet owners and pet lovers, we can all play a role in helping to prevent dog bites. Whether you have an incredibly docile and friendly dog, or you have a dog that already has a tendency to act fearfully if placed in the wrong situation, it is important to consider how we all can minimize the number of dog bites. And, for those of you who have children or allow your pets to interact with children, dog bite prevention is a very important topic to always keep in mind.
According to the AVMA Dog Bite Prevention Week website, more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs in the United States annually. Approximately 1 in 5 of those bites require medical attention. Children are the most common victims of dog bites, and they are far more likely to be severely injured. Importantly, dog bites to young children often occur when interacting with familiar dogs.
When interacting with any dog, here are some general pointers:
- Always remember that any dog can bite. Learn more about the Top Ten Scenarios to Avoid, or Recognizing Risky Situations.
- Ask for permission before petting a dog that is not yours.
- Avoid getting in a dog’s face.
- Be gentle and move slowly.
- Keep an eye out for any behavioral cues that could be signaling you to leave the dog alone. Learn more about How to Read Dog Body Language.
If you are a dog owner, there are some basic yet important steps you can take to minimize the chances of your dog biting:
- Understand your dog’s behaviors and cues. Often you can pick up on signals that your dog is scared, apprehensive, or needs a break from whatever is going on around him or her.
- If your dog has any type of medical condition that can cause pain or discomfort, remind everyone interacting with the dog that touching the dog in or around that area may elicit discomfort and unexpected behaviors (growling, snapping, biting, etc.).
- When your dog seems scared or fearful, find a way to remove your dog from the situation and give him or her some space. For example, if you have a large group of visitors and your dog seems overwhelmed or uncomfortable, put your dog in his or her crate or in a quiet room.
- Be mindful that your dog is not as familiar with house visitors. This could mean he or she may be more likely to display unexpected fearful or aggressive behaviors. So take extra precautions to keep your visitors and your dog as safe and happy as possible.
- Always use extra caution when your dog is around children or the elderly.
If you or your children are visiting with someone else’s dog, always follow the general pointers listed above. Additionally, keep in mind that this dog doesn’t know you as well as he or she knows the owner, which means the dog may be more apprehensive or need a break sooner rather than later.
Here are some additional resources to help educate children about dog bite prevention:
- Teaching children how to prevent dog bites
- AVMA “Jimmy the Dog” videos
- Stop the 77, a very powerful video by the thefamilydog.com
- AVMA Dog Bite Prevention Week
Author: Dr. C. Noureddine, DVM, MS