• Cierra Voelkl

Dog Bites: Know How to Prevent Them?

Photo Credit: Dogington Post

This week, April 8-14, is Dog Bite Prevention Week® which focuses on the education of preventing dog bites. There are over 70 million dogs living in U.S homes and each year, millions of dog bites, from minor to gruesome, take place with children being the top victims. The thing is that most of these bites are 100% preventable by either listening to your dog's body language or just not doing something that upsets them to the point of biting. Biting is often the last resort AFTER a dog has given plenty of warning such as growling. Here are some statistics from the American Veterinary Medical Association:

  • The U.S. Postal Service reports that 6,244 postal employees were attacked by dogs in 2017, down from 6,755 in 2016. Children, elderly, and postal carriers are the most frequent victims of dog bites.

  • In 2017, insurers across the country paid nearly $700 million in claims related to dog bites, according to estimates from the Insurance Information Institute.

  • Nearly 29,000 reconstructive procedures were performed in 2016 to repair injuries caused by dog bites, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Remember, ANY dog can bite, big or small, no matter what their background is, if provoked. Dogs bite often in reactivity to something. "If the dog finds itself in a stressful situation, it may bite to defend itself or it's territory. Dogs can bite because they are scared or have been startled. They can bite because they feel threatened. They can bite to protect something that is valuable to them, like their puppies, their food or a toy." (AVMA) Here are some steps you can take to help prevent dog bites: Socialization: Socializing your dog can help them feel more at ease in certain situations instead of nervous and on alert when out of the home. It helps to get them used to being around strangers and other dogs in public.

Education: Educate children on how to handle dogs and all animals as this can greatly reduce the risk of a child being bit. Teach them how to safely approach a dog (with parental guidance) and to be gentle with them.

Avoid Risky Situations: It's important to know how to avoid escalating risky situations and to understand when you should and should not interact with dogs. You should avoid petting a dog in these scenarios:

  • If the dog is not with its owner

  • If the dog is with its owner but the owner does not give permission to pet the dog

  • If the dog is on the other side of a fence – don't reach through or over a fence to pet a dog

  • If a dog is sleeping or eating

  • If a dog is sick or injured

  • If a dog is resting with her puppies or seems very protective of her puppies and anxious about your presence

  • If a dog is playing with a toy

  • If a dog is growling or barking

  • If a dog appears to be hiding or seeking time alone

Photo Credit: LovetoKnow

Pay Attention to Body Language: Body language can greatly help prevent dog bites as you can learn to avoid the situation before it escalates or remove the dog from a distressing situation. Dogs rely on their body language and vocalness to convey how they are feeling and it's up to us to know what they are saying. The Humane Societyhas a list of distressing body language to keep an eye out for:

  • tensed body

  • stiff tail

  • pulled back head and/or ears

  • furrowed brow

  • eyes rolled so the whites are visible

  • yawning

  • flicking tongue

  • intense stare

  • backing away

Photo Credit: About Dog

Again, remember, ANY DOG CAN BITE! It does not matter the breed, size or background. Dogs cannot talk. They cannot tell us to back away with words. Know the signs, educate others and children and you can prevent dog bites.

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