From nips to bites to actual attacks, dog bites are a serious problem. Even the sweetest, cutest dog can bite if provoked. Approximately 800,000 dog bite victims require medical attention in the US every year. Children are the most frequent victims of dog bites, making up half of all victims, followed by the elderly and postal carriers. Even dogs can be victims of dog bites. Fortunately, most dog bites are preventable by following some common sense tips, teaching children how to behave around dogs and training your own pet.
Tips for Everyone
Keep these tips in mind If you encounter an unfamiliar dog.
- If a dog approaches to sniff you, stay still. 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 back away slowly 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.
Keeping the Kids Safe
Most dog bites affecting young children occur during everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs. 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.
- be cautious of and do not approach strange dogs.
- ask permission from the dog’s owner before petting any dog.
- never disturb a dog that’s caring for puppies, sleeping or eating.
- never reach through or over a fence to pet a dog.
Dogs love to chase things — balls, squirrels and humans. They don’t chase trees, so teaching your child to “be a tree” when a strange dog comes running toward them or when a dog they are playing with gets too rambunctious is a great tool to keep them safe. To be a tree, the child must “plant his roots” (stand still), “fold his branches,” (bring his arms hanging together and fold his hands in front of his body) and “watch his roots grow,” (look down and count or think of something else until help arrives or the dog leaves).
Be A Good Puppy Parent
As a pet owner, you are responsible for your dog’s behavior. Starting from puppyhood, appropriate training, caution and care for your dog can help prevent aggressive behavior or putting family members or others at risk.
Socialize your pet so he feels comfortable around people and other animals. Gradually expose your puppy to a variety of situations under controlled circumstances. Don’t put your dog in a position where he feels threatened or teased.
Take extra care with young children. If you have young children, always supervise their interaction with all dogs, including your own. Carefully manage the introduction of a child or a new dog to your household. Consider delaying getting a new dog until your children are at least four years old.
Train your dog. Basic commands such as “sit,” “stay,” “no,” and “come” can be incorporated into fun activities that build a bond of obedience and trust between pets and people. Avoid highly excitable games like wrestling or tug-of-war.
Keep your dog healthy. Overall health care is important because how your dog feels directly affects how it behaves. Dogs in pain are more likely to bite. Make sure your dog is up to date on all of his vaccinations, including rabies. The standard rabies vaccination protocol is to vaccinate dogs at three or four months and again at one year of age followed by a three-year rabies vaccination a year later.
A dog who bites a human will be either quarantined or observed for at least 10 days to ensure that it does not have rabies. Whether or not the dog currently is vaccinated and the community where you live will determine the requirements of the quarantine. People who do become exposed to a rabid animal can be given post-exposure vaccinations and a globulin (antibody) injection to prevent infection. If a dog bites you, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately.
Be a responsible pet owner. Use a leash in public to control your dog. If you have a fenced yard, make sure the gates are secure. Walk and exercise your dog regularly to keep him healthy and mentally stimulated.
Be alert. Recognize when your dog is stressed, uncomfortable or showing signs of aggression. 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.
Dogs Can be Victims, Too
Just like human siblings, when a household has more than one dog, conflicts can occur. Aggressive incidents between dogs are not only upsetting, but they also can be dangerous for the dogs and the people who try to break up the fight.
Defying stereotypes, female dogs are involved in fights more often than males, their injuries tend to be more severe and fights tends to last longer and be more furious.
In addition, the instigator of the aggression is usually the younger dog or the dog who has been most recently brought into the household. The most common triggers of fights among housemates is the actions of the owner, such as paying attention to one dog rather than the other; excitement, usually involving the owner's arrival; or conflict over food or toys.
Fortunately, instituting basic behavioral techniques can help prevent aggressive behavior. One option is to require the dogs to respond to some simple learned commands, for example, “sit,” “down" or “come,” before they get something they want, such as a meal, treat or attention. Another technique is to choose one dog — typically the dog who is older, was in the household first or who is larger, stronger and healthier — to get food, treats, attention, etc., first.
Approximately 70 million dogs live in the US. and 4.5 million people — mostly children – are bitten by dogs every year. Dog bites are preventable, but it’s up to humans to ensure the safety of themselves, their children and the well being of their pet. If you have any questions about your dog’s behavior, contact Sierra Veterinary Clinic.