10 Tips to Prevent Dog Bites
By: Jeff Noce, i4C Innovations President
There’s no question that in this country, we love dogs. According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), there are approximately 70 to 80 million dogs in the United States, and 37% to 47% of households have at least one.
These statistics are hardly surprising. After all, dogs offer companionship, acceptance and unconditional love. They also serve humanity in countless ways, helping us with everything from search and rescue to therapy to seizure alert.
Unfortunately, despite all their wonderful attributes, all breeds of dogs can bite. In fact, more than 4.5 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs each year, and more than 800,000 require medical attention. At least half of these are children.*
The good news is that the vast majority of dog bites are preventable. To help raise awareness, May 17 – 23 has been designated National Dog Bite Prevention Week.
During this week, I encourage you to take the opportunity to educate yourself and your family (especially children) about how to reduce your risk for a dog bite. Here are 10 quick tips to get you started:
Learn about and respect canine body language.
Most dogs give signals that they’re uncomfortable before resorting to a bite. These signals include a tense body, a stiff tail, lip licking, yawning, intense stare, growling, barking, and looking or backing away. If you notice any of these behaviors, immediately remove yourself or your child from the situation.
Keep your dog inside.
Dogs are social animals who need to interact with their families. Chained dogs or those who are left outside for long periods are three times more likely to bite than those kept inside the home.
Don’t disturb a dog who is sleeping or eating.
When startled awake, some dogs may be disoriented and bite. Others may feel protective of food or toys. If this is the case with your dog, work with a trainer to correct this behavior.
Don’t allow children to climb on, grab or tug at a dog.
Small children can inadvertently hurt a dog by stepping on his tail or pulling on his ear, leading to a bite. Make sure children understand the importance of treating a dog with respect and gentleness.
Teach children the proper way to show affection.
Children naturally love to hug and kiss those they care about. Unfortunately, in dog language, this type of display is considered “rude” and can be frightening. It’s no surprise, then, that children are often bitten in the face and head. Help children understand appropriate ways to show affection, such as gently scratching under the chin.
Watch for signs of pain or illness.
Dogs who are injured or sick are more likely to bite than those who are healthy. This can be difficult to detect before a bite occurs since they tend to hide their pain. Take note if there’s a sudden difference in their behavior, eating or sleeping patterns. If your pup has a Voyce collar, you can keep on top of even the most subtle of changes before it becomes a problem.
Ask before petting a strange dog.
Not all dogs enjoy attention from those they don’t know. Even if the dog seems friendly, ask him owner before greeting or petting him.
Know your dog.
There is no one in the world who knows your dog and what he can tolerate better than you do. Protect him and others by keeping him out of situations that you know could be stressful or frightening to him.
Work with puppies on bite inhibition.
Dogs with proper bite inhibition rarely inflict serious damage. They often begin learning this skill from their littermates and mother, which is why it’s important to wait until they are between 8 and 10 weeks old before bringing them home. You can continue their education by not allowing them to chew on your hands, redirecting them instead to appropriate toys.
Seek professional help for aggressive behavior.
Address any problem behavior right away by consulting your veterinarian and/or a qualified trainer or behaviorist. Many behavioral issues can be corrected if caught quickly enough.
I’d like to hear from you. If you have any questions concerning pet health, wellness or behavior, drop me an email at email@example.com.