How Safe is Your Family from Dog Bites?- Dog Bite Prevention Week

There are 83.3 million owned dogs (according to APPA 2012 Statistics) which are kept in 56.7 million homes in the United States proving that these furry companions are popular with people. However, millions of people- most of them being children- are bitten by dogs every year. The majority of these bites, if not all, are preventable.

National Dog Bite Prevention Week takes place the third full week of May each year and focuses on educating people about preventing dog bites.

  • More than 4.5 million people in the US are bitten by dogs
  • 1 in 5 dog bites are serious enough to require medical attention
  • More than 800,000 Americans receive medical attention for dog bites; at least half of them are children
  • 32 US dog bite related fatalities in 2013
  • 56% of these fatality victims in 2013 were children ages 7 and under, 44% per adults 25 years old and older. Of the total children killed, 61% were 4 years old or under.

Children can pose as threats to dogs because they are more unpredictable, more unruly, more uncoordinated, and are more likely to get right up in a dog’s face than most adults. This is why there are higher incidents of children being bitten by dogs than adults. All children should be educated on how to respect dogs, even those furry family member in their own home, and should always have supervision. The Blue Dog Parent Guide and CD is a colorful and engaging way to help parents and children learn how to safely interact with dogs inside and outside of the home and can be purchased through the American Veterinary Medical Association. This resource it targeted towards children ages 3-6. Another great book to share with preschoolers is a board book called Tails Are Not For Pulling by Elizabeth Verdick. With proper prevention and education, your family lessens their risk of being bitten by a dog.

Why dogs bite:

  • They are trying to defend themselves or their territory
  • They are scared or have been startled
  • They feel threatened
  • They are trying to protect something valuable to them such as their puppies, food or a toy
  • They aren’t feeling well, are sick or sore and want to be left alone
  • They are overly excited and bite during play (which is why rough play, wrestling, or playing tug-of-war should be discouraged)

How to avoid being bitten by a dog:

  • Be respectful of the dog’s personal space
  • Never approach an unfamiliar dog, especially one that is tied or confined behind a fence or in a car
  • Never pet a dog, even your own, without letting him see and sniff you first
  • Do not disturb a dog while it is sleeping, chewing on a toy, or caring for puppies
  • Be cautious around strange dogs- always assume that if the dog does not know you, they may see you as an intruder or threat

How to prevent your dog from biting someone else:

  • Spay or neuter your dog
  • Socialize your dog, introducing him to many different types of people and situations
  • Understand that a wagging tail and pulling forward towards another dog doe snot necessarily mean the dog wants to be friendly
  • Train your dog and be sure that all family members learn the training techniques and participate in the dog’s education. Never send your dog away to be trained- only you can teach your dog to behave in your home, you are master and boss.
  • Teach your dog how to behave by never teaching your dog to chase or attack others, even in fun.
  • Seek professional help from your vet, an animal behaviorist or qualified dog trainer the very first time your dog exhibits dangerous behavior towards any person. Don’t wait for an accident!
  • Be a responsible dog owner by licensing your dog as required by law and provide veterinary care including rabies vaccinations. Don’t allow your dog to roam alone and make them a part of the family. Well socialized and supervised dogs are much less likely to bite.
  • Avoid stressful situations if possible. If your dog overreacts to visitors, delivery and service personnel, keep him in another room. If your dog panics in crowds, leave him at home. If you don’t know how a dog will react to a new situation, be cautious.
  • Never leave infants or young children alone with a dog

There is no guarantee that even the most properly behaved dog will ever bite. However, with proper training and precautions, you can significantly reduce the risk.

Read the dog’s body language and put a safe distance between yourself and the dog if you notice the following:

  • tensed body
  • stiff tail
  • pulling back the head or pinning back the ears
  • pulling forward (such as on a leash)
  • furrowed brow
  • eyes rolled so the whites are visible- known as “whale eye”
  • yawning
  • flicking tongue
  • intense stare
  • backing away, attempting to hide
  • showing of teeth
  • growling

If you think you might be attacked:

  • Never scream and run- a dog’s natural instinct is to chase
  • Remain motionless, hands at your sides, and avoid eye contact with the dog
  • Once the dog loses interest in you, slowly back away until the dog is out of sight
  • If the dog should attack, “feed” him your jacket, purse, bike, or anything that you can put between yourself and the dog
  • If you fall or knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your ears and remain motionless. Try not to scream or roll around.

What to do if your ARE bitten by a dog:

  1. Immediately wash the area thoroughly with soap and warm water
  2. Contact your physician for additional care and advise or seek medical attention
  3. Report the bite to your local animal care and control agency. Tell the animal control officer everything you know about the dog, including the owner’s name and the address where they live if possible. If the dog is a stray, tell the animal control official where you saw the dog the dog’s description, whether or not you have seen the dog before, and which direction the dog headed

What to do if YOUR dog bites someone:

  1. Confine your dog immediately and check the victim’s condition. Seek medical help if necessary.
  2. Provide the victim with important information such as your dog’s last rabies vaccination.
  3. Cooperate with animal control officials responsible for acquiring info about your dog. If your dog must be quarantined for any length of time, ask whether he may be confined in your home or at your veterinarian’s hospital. Strictly follow all quarantine requirements for your dog.
  4. Seek professional help to prevent your dog from biting again. Consult with your veterinarian who may refer you to an animal behaviorist or qualified dog trainer. Your local humane society or animal care and control agency might offer helpful services as well.
  5. If your dog’s dangerous behavior cannot be controlled, do not give him to someone else without carefully evaluating that person’s ability to protect him and prevent him from biting.
  6. Do not give your dog to someone who is looking for a dangerous dog. “Mean” dogs are often forced to live miserable, isolated lives and may be more prone to attack again in the future. Discuss with your vet and local animal care and control agency or humane society about your options if you are unable to continue caring for dog.

Please share this post throughout this week with family and friends for Dog Bite Prevention Week! Help keep them safe!