Keep Pets and Humans Safe
National Dog Bite Prevention Week (May 17-23, 2015).
I always thought my dogs would not bite or fight. Only “bad” dogs bite.
Then a few years ago, my husband sustained an “accidental” bite on his hand when he tried to break up a fight between our two lovely, normally very gentle, well-trained dogs, Cookie and Isabelle. A few weeks later, without warning, a close friend’s dog attacked a little girl at a barbecue in their garden. She required 20 stitches and reconstructive surgery on her face. We had known the dog since birth and he had seemed fine with kids. He had to be put down and the emotional and financial cost to everyone involved was awful, especially the little girl.
Now I have Kilo the Rescue Pug. Pugs are usually thought of as one of the least likely dog breeds to bite. They are friendly little lap dogs and love to cuddle. Kilo is very loving with me and with my family. We all adore him.
However I suspect Kilo might bite another dog or human under certain conditions, so I am very grateful for National Dog Bite Prevention Week. We have to take every precaution possible to keep him and the people and dogs around him safe. He looks so cute, people always want to pat him on our walks. Luckily, I have been pleasantly surprised. Most kids ask first and are very understanding and respectful. Our neighbours have all been very good about helping him too.
Kilo considers the postman and certain strangers that come to the house or pass on the street very serious threats. He is not alone. The U.S. Postal Service reports that 5,581 postal employees were attacked by dogs in 2013, and I bet many more smaller incidents went unreported.
According to the AVMA Dog Bite Prevention webpage:
- Each year, more than 4.5 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs.
- Almost 1 in 5 people bitten by dogs require medical attention.
- Every year, more than 800,000 Americans receive medical attention for dog bites; at least half of them are children.
- Children are, by far, the most common victims of dog bites and are far more likely to be severely injured. According to the Center for Disease Control, dog bites were the 11th leading cause of nonfatal injury to children ages 1-4, 9th for ages 5-9 and 10th for ages 10-14 from 2003-2012.
- Most dog bites affecting young children occur during everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs.
- Senior citizens are the second most common dog bite victims.
What can you do to prevent dog bites?
- Do your research before getting a puppy. Make sure you understand the responsibilities and choose the breed that is right for your lifestyle. Dogs that do not get appropriate attention, mental stimulation and exercise may be more likely to develop behavioural issues. Check out our breed library and quiz.
- Socialize your puppy well with other puppies, dogs, people and situations. Get more information on socialization.
- Train your puppy in obedience using positive reinforcement (see Training Tuesday posts for tips).
- Take your puppy/dog to the vet regularly and make sure they are healthy. Some dogs may act out if they have pain or medical issues.
- Always supervise children, especially small children around dogs. Never leave them alone. Train both the children and the dog how to interact politely and respectfully.
- Never approach someone else’s dog and try to pat it without asking.
- Be alert to dangerous situations. Be calm.
- Do not reach towards dogs tied up, in crates or behind fences. They may feel threatened or territorial.
- If you do reach out to let a dog sniff your hand with permission, it may be safer to pat under the chin first. Some dogs get frightened by hands coming down above their heads.
- Do not run past a dog off leash as some dogs like to chase.
- Do not disturb a dog that is caring for puppies, sleeping or eating.
- Do not take things away from dogs without precautions (trading, saying drop etc). Some dogs will guard their resources.
- If a dog looks threatening, avoid eye contact, keep still or back away very slowly. Do not scream. (Having said that, I have seen some trainers use very loud noises as an interruption to distract and sometimes stop an aggressive small dog effectively)
- If a dog does attack you and you are on the ground, curl in a ball and protect your face.
Find out more about why dogs bite and what you can do to prevent dog bites in this AVMA article: