Dog bite prevention: Do you know what to do?
Did you know that, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, over 4.5 million people in the US are bitten by dogs every year? Even more frightening is the fact that children are the most common dog bite victims and are often bitten during interactions with dogs that they know.
The good news is that the majority of dog bites are preventable so, as part of National Dog Bite Prevention Week (May 17-23), we would like to provide you with some tips to help keep you and your loved ones safe from dog bites.
1. Know how to act around aggressive or fearful dogs
If you come in contact with a dog who is acting aggressive (growling, barking, pacing), the best thing to do is slowly remove yourself or your child from the area. Don’t move suddenly, don’t yell, and don’t run. Break eye-contact with the dog and move calmly away.
Teach your children what to do if they are alone and are approached by an unknown dog. Tell them to stand still and not move suddenly. If the dog is acting “scary”, tell them to keep their hands down and look at their feet. If they get knocked over, they should put their arms over around their head and neck and curl into a ball until the dog goes away.
2. Don’t approach or touch dogs that you don’t know
This is an especially important thing to teach small children who want to “pet the doggy”. Be sure to ask the owner before approaching the dog and watch the dog’s behavior closely. If it is cowering, barking, or acting fearful, stay away. Even if the owner says it won’t bite.
3. Don’t approach dogs when they are eating or playing with a toy
Some dogs are very possessive about food or toys. You may think you are being playful or loving, but the dog may see this as a threat and try to bite. If you or your children have been playing with the dog and then the dog leaves, play time is over. Don’t chase the dog or try to force him to interact with you more.
4. Don’t bother a dog when they are in their bed or their crate
This is their “safe place” and if you try to invade it, they may see it as a threat to their territory. Tell your children they should never get in the crate or the dog bed either.
5. Educate your kids on how to treat dogs
Children don’t know how to read a dog’s body language or know how rough is “too rough”. Be sure to teach them to not pull ears or tails and how to pet “softly”. They need to know that it is never ok to tease, hit, or kick a dog or any other animal.
It is also important to never assume that a dog won’t bite. Just because a dog is familiar to you, or even been part of your family for years, doesn’t mean they won’t bite. Dogs can bite for a lot of reasons and will even lash out at people that they know depending on the circumstance. Learning how to assess and avoid potentially risky situations will ensure that you and the kiddos always have fun and joyful interactions with our four-legged friends.