Sponsored by the American Veterinary Medical Association, National Dog Bite Prevention Week, April 10 through April 16, is a time where animal medical professionals bring awareness to dog bites and their severity, and educate the public on how to prevent them. An estimated 4.5 million dog bites happen annually so it’s possible you or someone you know has had an incident with a dog bite recently.
Responsible pet ownership is one way to prevent dog bites. Below are some ways you can be a responsible pet owner and help lessen dog bites.
- Socialize your pet early. This will acclimate them to strangers, both human and other animals. The younger you can start socializing, the better. Safely take your dog on trips with you to the park or even pet-friendly restaurants!
- Set your dog up for success by training your dog regularly. This will keep your dog mentally exercised and basic commands like, “sit” and “stay” and “come” will be extremely helpful as you try to socialize your dog. This will make your outings less stressful, therefore, you can go out with your dog more often and acclimate them to other animals and humans.
- Make sure to use a leash in public while you are training your dog. This will give you more control over your dog and the situation if your dog starts to feel threatened and wants to lash out.
- Regularly take your dog to the vet to get vaccines and shots. If your dog feels sick, this will affect how they behave– if they feel poorly, they will act poorly.
Teach your children or any children in your life to respect animals and to understand the signs of when a dog is in distress. Below are some examples of scenarios to go over:
- Tell them the difference of when a dog wants time alone versus when they want to cuddle and be pet.
- Teach them not to not run up to a dog, even when it’s on a leash. The dog could see this as charging.
- Inform them on what to do if confronted by an angry dog.
- How to tell when a dog wants to play versus when they don’t.
- Teach them how to ask permission from the pet’s owner to pet a dog.
- Never approach a strange dog.
Another quick tip: if needed, while the dog is in training or if your child is too young to understand the above scenarios, break your house up into zones! This way, both your child and your dog will be safe when you aren’t around. During supervised time, allow your dog and child to interact and play! Gates should help with this transition.
Lastly, pay close attention to the signs of when your dog is aggravated– ruffled fur on the back, hunched, lowered head, deep growl, ears back, crouched stance, pupils dilated. All or a few of these could be signs your dog is annoyed and they may lash out at any minute. When this happens, calmly remove your dog from the situation. This won’t punish the dog, but it will interrupt behaviors you don’t like, like biting. This allows you to control the situation and change bad behaviors before they become bad habits.
The biggest takeaway from this should be that education, training, and observation can help prevent dog bites. National Dog Bite Prevention Week aims to bring awareness to the fact that while dog bites are common, they really shouldn’t be. And there are simple, actionable steps you can take as a responsible pet owner to change those statistics!
All research is from avma.org