All dogs bite under the proper circumstances. If you stress a dog or the dog feels overwhelmed and cornered, you are likely to be bitten.
Even the cutest, fuzziest, lovable pup can bite if provoked. Most people are bitten by their own dog or one they know. Some owners actually think it’s macho to promote aggression in their dogs or allow aggression to go unchecked. If your dog is showing aggression, call in a pro for help. Denial can be deadly.
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. All dogs will bite.
From nips to bites to actual attacks, dog bites are a troubling problem. Dog bite victims requiring medical attention in the United States number approximately 800,000 annually. Countless more bite injuries go untreated. On average, about a dozen people die each year from dog bite injuries. Fortunately, there are steps we can take to address this problem.
Who’s being bitten?
The number of recorded dog bite injuries is 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. Dog trainers, groomers, vets and people who work with dogs rarely get bitten. People who respect the dangers generally do not do the foolish things that get them bitten.
For the non-professional that interacts with dogs, you should follow this advice.
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 dogs and people. Obedience training is actually NOT about teaching your dog to do tricks. The true purpose is to teach your dog to listen and obey you in distracting situations. With the proper training your dog will cue on your behavior. If you are calm and unaggressive, a well trained dog will likewise not display aggression. Avoid highly excitable games like wrestling or tug-of-war. Use a leash in public to ensure you are able to control your dog.
Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog. Children often think of dogs as toys and dogs often think of children as prey. This is a lethal combination.
Carefully select your dog. Don’t get a puppy on impulse. Before and after selection, a qualified dog behaviorist or trainer is your best source for information about behavior and suitability. Stress is the major cause of family dog aggression and if the breed you select is not suited to your lifestyle, you are inviting stress which can lead to aggression.
Make sure your dog is socialized as a young puppy so it 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. Take your puppy to Coffee Houses, and areas where large numbers of people congregate. Expose your pup to elderly people, people of different races, people with canes and walkers, joggers, bikers and children. Don’t put your dog in a position where it feels threatened or teased.
Wait until your child is older. Because so many dog bite injuries happen to young children, it is suggested that parents wait to get a dog until children are older than 4 years of age.
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.
Neuter your pet.The available science suggests neutered dogs may be less likely to bite.
Be a responsible pet owner. Dogs are social animals; spending time with your pet is important. Dogs that are frequently left alone have a greater chance of developing behavioral problems. Ever hear the expression, “mean as a junkyard dog”?. It’s true. Tie a dog on a stake and isolate him from human contact and he will likely become aggressive. Although most of us would never do that, we often think nothing of leaving our dog in the backyard for hours on end and expect him to not become territorial and aggressive .Walk and exercise your dog regularly to keep it healthy and provide mental stimulation. Train your dog.
Be alert. Know your dog. Be alert to signs of illness. Also watch for signs your dog is uncomfortable or behaving aggressively.
How can my family 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
Teach children – including toddlers – to be careful around pets.
Children must be taught 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 the dog.
Other tips that may prevent or stop a dog attack
Don’t run past a dog.
Dogs naturally love to chase and catch things. Don’t give them a reason to become excited or aggressive.
Never disturb a dog that’s caring for puppies, sleeping or eating.
Never reach through or over a fence to pet a dog.
Dogs can be protective of their territory, and may interpret your action as a threat.
If a dog approaches to sniff you, stay still.
Do not stick out your hand for the dog to sniff you. This common advice is simply a stupid urban myth. The dog can smell you from 20 yards away. Sticking your hand in a dogs face is aggressive and may trigger a bite. Let the dog sniff you and In most cases, the dog will go away when it determines you are not a threat.
If you are threatened by a dog, remain calm.
Don’t scream or yell. If you say anything, speak calmly and firmly. Avoid eye contact. Try to stay still until the dog leaves, or turn slowly so your side is facing the dog rather than facing the dog until the dog is out of sight. Don’t turn and run.
If you fall or are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your head and neck. Protect your face.
What should I do if my dog bites someone?
Even if the bite can be explained (e.g., someone stepped on your dog’s tail), it’s important to take responsibility for your dog’s actions by taking these steps:
Restrain the dog immediately. Separate it from the scene of the attack. Confine it.
Check on the victim’s condition. Wash wounds with soap and water. Unseen damage can occur with bites, and can lead to complications. Professional medical advice should be sought to evaluate bite wounds and the risk of rabies or other infections. Call 911 if a response by paramedics is required.
Provide important informationi ncluding your name, address and information about your dog’s most recent rabies vaccination. If your dog does not have a current rabies vaccination, it may be necessary to quarantine it or even euthanize it for rabies testing. The person bitten may need to undergo post-exposure prophylaxis.
Comply with local ordinances regarding reporting of dog bites.
Consult a professional trainer for advice about dog behavior that will help prevent similar problems in the future.
Dogs are wonderful companions. By acting responsibly, owners not only reduce dog bite injuries, but also enhance the relationship they have with their dog. The number one thing you can do to prevent dog bites is to be a responsible owner and train your dog.