The Basics of Dog Bite Prevention
If you’re like us, you probably have an urge to pet every good dog you see around town.
Whether you know the pup or not, you may be inclined to reach out and scratch those adorable little ears! Of course, even the cutest, fluffiest dogs can have temperament issues -- which is why knowing the basics of dog bite prevention is so important.
For dog owners, that importance is even greater, as a bite could have serious consequences for yourself, your dog, and the person your dog has harmed.
The Royal Children’s Hospital of Melbourne reports that roughly 13,000 people every year are treated in Australian emergency departments due to dog bites. In the United States, nearly 5 million dog bites occur annually -- and many of those require medical attention.
Sadly, children under 5 years old experience the greatest risk of a serious dog bite.
This is a travesty, because dogs are not born wanting to hurt humans. They are called man’s best friend for a reason, and many instances of dog bites are due to carelessness on the part of the person who was bitten (perhaps playing roughly, or petting the dog without permission of its owners) or else improper training on the part of the dogs’ owner.
Let’s take a look at a few of the steps that us humans should be taking to prevent dog bites -- starting with what you can do to avoid being bitten, and then addressing what you should be doing as a dog owner yourself.
Understand the Most Common Warning Signs
Unfortunately, dogs can’t talk and let us know that they are uncomfortable or annoyed. Instead, we have to rely on their body language. If you know what signs to look for, you can oftentimes notice an angry dog right away.
As a general rule, a potentially aggressive dog will try to make itself look bigger. Its ears will be up and its fur will puff out, especially on the back along the spine especially around the shoulders (hackles up).
If a dog looks stiff, or is making direct eye contact, it likely sees you as a threat. Instead of approaching the pooch, it is best to just back away.
The noises a dog makes can also be an important indicator of how he or she is feeling.
Obviously enough, strange dogs who are snarling or lunging toward you likely see you as a threat.
It’s important to pay close attention to more subtle signs of a potential attack, as well. For example, anxious dogs may actually whimper or make physical gestures that humans misinterpret as sadness. They may, for example, shrink into the ground, lower their heads, and put their tail in between their legs.
In these cases, your first instinct may be to pet the pup to comfort them -- however, this can cause the dog to bite out of fear. And even small, seemingly helpless dogs can cause a puncture wound!
Know How to Keep Children Safe
At least half of the people bitten by dogs are children. Children are often tempted to approach dogs out of natural curiosity and the desire to play -- and small children oftentimes can’t recognise even the most apparent of warning signs. As a parent of guardian, it is your responsibility to step up and keep the kiddos safe!
In general, young children should stay away from dogs they do not know. Even if you take your child to a friends home, you should be wary of any dogs in the house. Dogs will protect their homes, so if they are not used to children, they may attack as a show of dominance. Similarly, children should always stay away from pets that are eating or sleeping. Dogs are more likely to bite when they are startled.
Children and dogs can get along great, but you must always be careful to prevent an animal bite. If a child is bitten, you should immediately clean the wound with soap and water. If it is not deep, and you know the dog has had all it’s shots, you can typically use a bandaid and be on your way. However, if the dog is not up to date on shots, or if the wound is deep, you should head to the emergency department right away.
Dog bite injuries don’t just happen at strangers houses. Your family dog can injure young kids as well. Most dog bite injuries in the home are not due to aggression. Instead, they are typically accidents. If your young child is playing tug-of-war with your dog, Fido may get too excited and accidentally bite.
To prevent this type of dog bite injury, you should always watch when your child is playing with your dog.
Owner Responsibility: How to Stop Your Pooch From Getting Aggressive
Part of responsible pet ownership is making sure your dog is not aggressive towards others. This can be a difficult task, especially if you have adopted a shelter animal. Whether you gain your new family member as a puppy, or get them when they are years old, there is a lot you can do to make a difference. (The saying just isn’t true: you can teach an old dog new tricks!)
Dogs can start training classes as early as 8 weeks old. Even learning how to play simple games like fetch and tug of war can help dogs find a healthy and safe way of expressing their natural energy.
By getting them trained in their basic commands, your dog is more likely to listen to you when they are frightened, instead of biting.
You should also socialise your dog as much as possible. If they are cooped up in your home all day every day, they will be more aggressive. They should be taken to the dog park at least once a week to hang out with different dogs and people. This will give them the socialisation necessary to prevent dog bites.
Not only will they be able to spend time with other pups, but they will also get to know other dog owners at the park.
Preventing dog bites is more than just a convenience. It is a necessity. If your dog acts aggressively and hurts another person, they can be taken away by animal control. That’s why it is important to seek help via training classes if you are having trouble with your dog.
Stand Up for Safety!
Preventing dog bites isn’t just up to the owner.
While owners play a huge role, everyone should do their part to make sure that dogs and humans get along.
By asking before petting a strange dog, you are preventing a possible bite.
Sneaking up on a dog just to shake its adorable fur can cause a lot of harm, especially if the dog wasn’t expecting it. Furthermore, you must watch out for your children.
Whether you are at the park, at a friends house, or even in your own home, children must be watched around dogs at all times. Even if your pup seems to be best friends with your child, if your young son or daughter pulls on fido’s ears too tight, the dog may be inclined to lash out.