From nips to bites to actual attacks, dog bites are a serious problem. Dog bite victims requiring medical attention in the United States number approximately 800,000 annually; at least half of them are children. Countless more bite injuries go untreated. Fortunately, there are steps we can take to address this problem.
WHO’S BEING BITTEN?
The number of recorded dog bite injuries is significantly higher in children than adults. The elderly and home service providers such as mail carriers and meter readers are also high on the list of frequent dog bite victims.
WHAT’S A DOG OWNER TO DO?
Although media reports and rumors often give the impression that certain breeds of dog are more likely to bite, there is little scientific evidence to support those claims. It is more important to focus on things that we know increase the chance of a bite occurring. Carefully select your pet. Don’t get a puppy on impulse. Before and after selection, your veterinarian is your best source for information about behavior, health and suitability. Socialize your pet so he/she feels at ease around people and other animals. Gradually expose your puppy to a variety of situations under controlled circumstances; continue that exposure on a regular basis as your dog gets older. Don’t put your dog in a position where he/she feels threatened or teased.
Take extra care with young children. If you have a dog and young children, always supervise their interaction with dogs, including your own dogs. Carefully manage the
introduction of a child or a new dog to your household. Consider delaying acquiring a new dog until your children are over the age of four.
Train your dog. The basic commands “sit,” “stay,” “no,” and “come” can be incorporated into fun activities that build a bond of obedience and trust between pets and people.
ANY DOG CAN BITE
Even the cuddliest, fuzziest, sweetest pup can bite if provoked. Most people are bitten by their own dog or one they know. Some
owners actually promote aggression in their dogs or allow aggression to go unchecked.
Avoid highly excitable games like wrestling or tug-of-war. Use a leash in public to ensure you are able to control your dog. Keep your dog healthy. Have your dog vaccinated against rabies and preventable infectious diseases. Parasite control and overall health care are important because how your dog feels directly affects how it behaves. Dogs in pain are more likely to bite, so have painful conditions such as arthritis, or injuries addressed by your veterinarian.
Be a responsible pet owner. Obey leash laws. If you have a fenced yard, make sure the gates are secure. Walk and exercise your dog regularly to keep him/her healthy and provide mental stimulation. Studies of dog bite events suggest that it may be
beneficial to spay or neuter your dog; discuss these procedures with your veterinarian.
Be alert. Recognize when your dog is stressed, uncomfortable, or showing signs of aggression, and be prepared to prevent escalation of the situation. Remove your dog from situations that could increase the risk of biting. If your dog shows signs of fear
or aggression that seem unprovoked or potentially dangerous,
consult a veterinarian to determine the cause and seek treatment.
HOW CAN MY FAMILY AND I AVOID BEING BITTEN?
Be cautious around strange dogs and treat your own pet with respect. Because children are the most common victims of dog bites, parents and caregivers should:
• Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
• Be alert for potentially dangerous situations, and take
measures to prevent or stop them from escalating.
• Teach children – including toddlers – to be careful
around and respectful of pets.
• Teach children not to approach strange dogs or try to pet dogs
by reaching through fences.
• Teach your children to ask permission from the dog’s owner
before petting any dog.