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May 7, 2013

How To Prevent A Dog Bite Before It Happens

May is a big month for pet public awareness campaigns.  This week is National Pet Week (cue the “every week is pet week” jokes), and Dog Bite Prevention Week runs May 19 – 25. I love to extoll the virtues of our pets on a daily basis, but I also
May is a big month for pet public awareness campaigns.  This week is National Pet Week (cue the “every week is pet week” jokes), and Dog Bite Prevention Week runs May 19 – 25. I love to extoll the virtues of our pets on a daily basis, but I also think it is important to discuss the problems that can arise when you have a pet.  When it comes to dogs, the most serious problem imaginable is that your dog harms someone, so I applaud the American Veterinary Medical Association and other groups for bringing this issue center stage. According to the AVMA, each year dogs bite approximately 4.7 million people.  Nearly one million of those people require medical attention and about half of those are children.  Thankfully, there are steps everyone with a dog can take to prevent bites before they happen.  Are many of these steps common sense? Yes, but they are all worth repeating.

Rhodesian Ridgeback

Like Ceci, all children should have to worry about dog kisses, not dog bites.  With some basic steps we can all make that possible

1. 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)

Rhodesian Ridgebacak

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.

Comments for How To Prevent A Dog Bite Before It Happens

  1. emma says:

    Good points. Us pups are patient, but kids can push us to our limits pulling and tugging at us, both us pups and the kids need rules to follow.

  2. Kristina says:

    Emma makes a good point. It takes training with both dog and human parents to be most successful. My Cliff has been barked at, smacked with toys, and poked by kids. Luckily he takes it all in stride- partly because of training, partly because of his Golden side!

  3. Responsible dog owners can learn a lot from all these tips and no doubt offer many more. It’s the irresponsible ones we have to really watch out for – those who have a dog as a status symbol and the poor dogs are supposed to form part of the human ‘ego’. Benign neglect doesn’t help either. As you say, teaching dogs how to cope with children is fundamental but teaching kids how to treat dogs when they understand actions and reactions, is almost more important as they hopefully take it with them throughout their lives. Great post.

  4. Boomdeeadda says:

    Applaud!!!!! Thank you for your important message today Will (and Eko). As a victim of a dog bite (to my face), I can’t stress enough that so much of it is really common sense. I knew the dog that bit me but was unaware and not warned that he had bit others b4. Luckily there happened to be a plastic surgeon working in the ER the night I arrived. I LOVE dogs and have been a dog owner for over two decades, but I will never again make the mistake to think that everyone is like you and I, responsible pet owners.

  5. Jorie says:

    Great tips, Will. It’s true that you never really know how a dog will behave in a new set of circumstances–like visiting with a new child who is suddenly at his eye height or lower, for instance. I think socializing him or her as a pup is the most important thing you can do.

  6. Zena says:

    Kids can easily scare dogs with their loud noises and screams, it is good to have a campaign to make people aware of both sides of the story. The need to have a stable, well trained dog and the need to educate the young around pets. They are not toys.

  7. Marcela says:

    Will, great pictures and excellent advice. My advice is that if a child pets your pet without asking, do your best to move your dog away and/or block the kid’s way. This recently happened to us where this teenager approached Alex from the back and touched her without asking me or Cynthia if he could pet her. I was unable to block his way so I moved Alex out of the way and he still came towards her. I did block him at this point and I told him, “Wait. If you want to pet my dog she has to be in a sitting position and you need to ask me if it’s ok.” Once I got Alex on a sitting position, I told him that it was ok and he touched her head. I told him, “No, you do not pet a dog by putting your hand on top of her head for this signals dominance and it can entice a bite.” I took the kid’s hand and showed him how to do it properly. I told him that I was glad that he liked dogs and that he wanted to pet them, but if he did not learn how to do it properly he will get bitten and the fault is his although, of course, the dog is the one that’ll get blamed. He said, “ok. I did not know.” The mom saw our approach with the kid and she just smiled at us. This is a perfect example of why there are so many kids bitten by dogs. Kids are not taught how to approach properly a dog. Alex is really good with people. She does not care who wants to pet her she is just happy that someone is willing to do it, but even like that I don’t let anybody pet her without asking me or Cynthia specially if that happens to be a kid.

  8. Ogee says:

    Great info…thanks so much for sharing. May save some little fingers and faces…and some pups in the process!

  9. Great post, thanks for the information. To socialize a dog and to be careful and responsible is the best what we can do.

  10. Misaki says:

    Mummy and daddy did the ‘ouch’ thing with me too. Now when I play rough with daddy instead of biting him (as he deserves lol) I just lick him to death!

  11. Good post Will. I did one about dog body language, asking permission to pet, etc. a while ago you can find here

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