Each May, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) sponsors National Dog Bite Prevention Week. This year, May 16-22, marks the date. According to the Center for Disease control, over 4.5 million people a year fall victim to dog bites. Approximately 800,000 of them are severe enough to require medical attention but the rest go unreported.
Who is typically bitten? Considering the numbers above, nearly 2% of the US population. You won’t be surprised to learn that the vast majority are children. Other front runners are the elderly and service providers such as postal employees.
On a weekly basis, I hear stories of dogs biting adults, children and other dogs. The biting typically occurs in the home or yard by a dog that the person/child/dog knows…i.e. a family or neighborhood pet. People are upset, angry and questioning what to do with the aggressor. If the bite was imposed on a child and not severe, the dog is typically re-homed. In more serious cases, like the stories we hear about on the news, the dog is euthanized.
The reality? In most cases, the bite was 100% preventable.
How can you protect your family…including your dog? Let’s start with the first step, Reduce the Risk of Your Dog Biting. I know that for many of you, I am preaching to the choir. But for those who are unaware of how to prevent your dog from biting…this is worth the read.
Be a responsible pet owner- as the saying goes: love, license and LEASH your dog. I know many people who don’t believe in the last part of that phrase. They let their dog roam off leash as much as possible and enjoy giving him that freedom.
Even if your dog is the most non aggressive dog on the planet, he could try to interact with a dog aggressive dog being walked on leash… an altercation ensues and someone gets bit. OR, your unleashed dog, roaming around your front yard, becomes protective of his territory, and decides to chase and/or bite two and four legged passersby.
These situations are completely avoidable simply by leashing your dog while walking and letting your dog have free range of their fenced and gated backyard.
Spay or neuter your dog- Having your dog altered will reduce their desire to roam and act aggressively. Altered dogs are three times less likely to bite than non altered dogs. Spaying/neutering also promotes a healthier lifestyle for your pet.
Socialize your dog- Introduce your puppy to many types of people, animals and situations so they are at ease when a new or strange situation occurs. If you have an older dog that needs to beef up his social skills try a training class or work one on one with a training professional.
Train your dog- Enrolling your dog into a training class at an early age is the best choice, but older dogs can do well to take a refresher course.
Pet selection and timing- Dogs should never be obtained on impulse. Research the type of dog that will blend well with your family and lifestyle. Since so many bites happen to children, make sure it is the right time for you and your kids. It is recommended to wait until children are over four years of age.
Most importantly, ALWAYS monitor your dog while with children. Never let children and dogs have alone time. As we all know, children love to play, tug at and chase dogs oftentimes. They also don’t know better than to interrupt a dog while he is eating, snacking on a treat or sleeping. These are all potential situations for a nip.
Keep your dog healthy- A healthy dog is a happy dog and the way a dog feels directly affects his actions. Have your dog vaccinated against rabies and other infectious diseases and ensure comfort by using parasite control.
If your dog exhibits aggressive behavior towards people, children or animals contact your veterinarian ASAP to rule out a health related issue. If your Sophie or Tucker checks out with a clean bill of health it is time to check him or her into a dog training class to address your concerns.
There is so much to say on this topic and to learn more please visit the following sites:
Dog Body Language: http://www.pawsacrossamerica.com/interpret.html
Teaching Kid’s: www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/dog-care-dog-bite-prevention.html
A little bit of common sense will go a long way to keeping your family and pet safe!