Lee County Humane Society Discusses Dog Bites and How to Prevent Them
In the United States, approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur each year and up to 800,000 people are treated for dog bites annually. About half are children.
Any dog can bite: big or small, male or female, young or old. Even the cuddliest, fuzziest, sweetest pet can bite if provoked. Remember, it is not a dog’s breed that determines whether it will bite, but rather the dog’s individual history and behavior.
Because any dog can bite, education and responsible pet ownership are key. Most dog bites are preventable, and there are many things you can do at home and within your community to help prevent them.
Why do dogs bite?
Dogs bite for a variety of reasons, but most commonly as a reaction to something. If the dog finds itself in a stressful situation, it may bite to defend itself or its territory. Dogs can bite because they are scared or have been startled. They can bite because they feel threatened.
They can bite to protect something that is valuable to them, like their puppies, their food or a toy.
Dogs might bite because they aren’t feeling well. They could be sick or sore due to injury or illness and might want to be left alone. Dogs also might nip and bite during play. Even though nipping during play might be fun for the dog, it can be dangerous for people. It’s a good idea to avoid wrestling or playing tug-of-war with your dog. These types of activities can make your dogoverly excited, which may lead to a nip or a bite.
What you can do to prevent dog bites:
- Socialization is a good way to help prevent your dog from biting. Socializing your pet helps your dog feel at ease in different situations. By introducing your dog to people and other animals while it’s a puppy, it feels more comfortable in different situations as it gets older. It’s also important to always use a leash in public to ensure that you are always able to control your dog.
Responsible Pet Ownership
- Responsible pet ownership builds a solid foundation for dog bite prevention. Basics of responsible dog ownership that can help reduce the risk of dog bites include carefully selecting the dog that’s right for your family, proper training, regular exercise, and neutering or spaying your pet.
- Educate yourself and your children about how—or whether—to approach a dog.
- Never leave a small child and a dog alone together, no matter if it is the family dog, a dog that is known to you, or a dog that you have been assured is well behaved. Any dog can bite.
- Do not allow your child to play aggressive games with a dog, such as tug-of-war or wrestling, as this can lead to bites.
- Teach your child to ask a dog owner for permission before petting any dog.
- Let a dog sniff you or your child before petting, and stay away from the face or tail. Pet the dog gently, and avoid eye contact, particularly at first.
- Teach your child to move calmly and slowly around dogs.
- Teach your child that if a dog is behaving in a threatening manner—for example, growling and barking—to remain calm, avoid eye contact with the dog, and back away slowly until the dog loses interest and leaves.
- If you or your child is knocked over by a dog, curl up in a ball and protect the eyes and face with arms and fists.
Avoid Risky Situations
- It’s important to know how to avoid escalating risky situations and to understand when you should and should not interact with dogs. You should avoid petting a dog in these scenarios:
- If the dog is not with its owner
- If the dog is with its owner but the owner does not give permission to pet the dog
- If the dog is on the other side of a fence—don’t reach through or over a fence to pet a dog
- If a dog is sick or injured
- If a dog is playing with a toy
- If a dog is growling or barking
- If a dog appears to be hiding or seeking time alone
- If a dog is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies. Dogs in these situations are more likely to respond aggressively, even with a person who is familiar to them.
Pay Attention to Body Language
- Reading a dog’s body language also can be helpful. Just like people, dogs rely on body gestures, postures and vocalizations to express themselves and communicate. While we can’t always read a dog’s body language accurately, it can give us helpful clues as to whether a dog is feeling stressed, frightened, or threatened.
- However, the behavior of a dog may not always indicate its friendliness or unlikelihood of biting. This is because when a dog wags its tail, most people interpret this as the dog expressing happiness and friendliness.
- Though tail wagging can express these positive emotions, tail wagging is also an indication of fear, insecurity, challenging of dominance, establishing social relationships or a warning that the dog may bite.
Courtesy: Mary Wynne Kling, Lee County Humane Society