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Like Ceci, all children should have to worry about dog kisses, not dog bites. With some basic steps we can all make that possible1. Teach bite-control – When Eko was a puppy he would accidentally chomp my finger when trying to devour a treat. He would also occasionally nip my leg and run away to goad me into playing with him. In both situations the bite felt more like a small pinch, but I would purposely yelp and cry loudly to signal that I was injured. I would also immediately remove the object of Eko’s desire and correct him verbally with a deep, booming “NO!” He quickly learned that ANY type of bite – intentional or otherwise – is entirely unacceptable. 2. Socialize often – Dog bites are frequently reactionary behavior as a result of the dog being frightened or nervous. A well socialized pup will be comfortable with all types of people and environments. 3. Never leave young children unattended with a dog- This is easily the most common sense recommendation, but the one most often unheeded. I don’t think Eko would ever bite a child – he was amazing with Emily’s niece Ceci – but why senselessly risk it? Children are often bitten by familiar dogs (think of a child pulling a dog’s tail/ear or accidentally startling a dog) so it is always best to err on the side of caution. 4. Common sense, common sense, common sense – Keep your pet healthy/up to date on all vaccinations, give your dog plenty of physical/mental exercise, make sure the gate to your yard is closed (The AVMA has a longer list here)
Ceci is still a bit young to take Eko for a walk – actually, she can’t even walk herself yet – but the AVMA also has recommendations for what you can teach children about meeting new dogs
No system is perfect, but a healthy, socialized, trained and well-exercised pup is a happy pup (and happy person!) and is infinitely less likely to ever bite someone. As responsible pet owners it is up to us to help spread the word about bite-prevention. If you are looking for additional resources you can find helpful links at the bottom of the AVMA’s page. If you have any of your own bite-prevention tips or resources, be sure to share! The more we share this information the more we can help reduce the incidence of preventable dog-bites.