By Jessa Paschke, Pet Training Specialist
Each year in April, National Dog Bite Prevention Week draws attention to an unfortunate fact. More than 4.5 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs each year. And, many of those are children. But most, if not all, bites are actually preventable.
Here’s what you need to know about dog bites and dog bite prevention.
1. Early dog bite prevention efforts pay off later.
Teach your puppy that being gentle around people is rewarded. This way she won’t grow up thinking it’s okay to nip or bite. If she nips you, yelp or say “ow” in a loud, high-pitched tone of voice (like a puppy yelp) to startle her into letting go. Withdrawing attention also works – stand up and give the puppy a short time-out until she stops biting.
Another trick is teaching your pup to grab a toy when interacting with people, rather than seeing the person as a toy to nibble on. Once your pup is behaving and not trying to bite, reward her with praise or a treat to reinforce that NOT biting is desirable. Here are some more training tips from our PEDIGREE® brand.
2. Consider spaying or neutering.
Spayed or neutered pets are sometimes less aggressive and more relaxed. BestFriends.org reports that spaying and neutering has a direct impact on the incidence of dog bites in a community. Your veterinarian can help you evaluate the benefits of spaying and neutering for your particular pet.
3. Consider your pet’s personality.
If your dog seems anxious around other people and pets, you may want to find exercise options that don’t bring you into contact with as many people. Skip the dog park and opt for quieter spaces where your dog will be more comfortable.
Never push a dog beyond his comfort zone, which might make him feel threatened or that he needs to defend himself. And, consider positive reward training. With an under-confident pet, positive reward training can help him gain confidence, and also strengthen your bond with him.
4. Staying in control helps dog bite prevention.
Remember to always keep your dog leashed in public places, so you can guide him away from people or other pets if needed. Don’t wait until after he becomes reactive to try to regain control. Also, be sure your dog understands important training cues like “come,” “sit” and stay.” Here’s more info on training your furry friend.
5. Watch dog body language for signs.
Dogs use their whole bodies to communicate, so watch for signs that they might be uncomfortable. For example, a scared dog might pull her ears back or flat and put her tail low or between her legs. An aggressive dog often stands still or rigid and shows her teeth. Check out this booklet with tips on reading dog body language so you know what dogs might be trying to tell you.
6. Teach kids about dog bite prevention.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) says that children are by far the most common victims of dog bites. And, importantly, AVMA says these bites typically occur during everyday activities and with familiar dogs. Here’s a helpful guide from AVMA to teach kids about how to be safe around dogs.
Most important, always supervise young children around pets. And, teach kids to always ask the owner before approaching a dog.
7. Know when to give a dog space.
Any dog can bite – big or small, old or young, or of any breed. Biting is generally a response to the dog being surprised, scared, stressed, in pain, or feeling like she needs to defend herself, her territory or her stuff. Give a dog space if she:
- Isn’t a dog you know.
- Isn’t with her owner.
- Is sleeping or eating.
- Is playing with a toy.
- Appears sick or injured.
- Is growling or barking.
- Appears nervous or uncomfortable.
8. Know how to protect yourself.
If you think you might be bitten by a dog:
- Avoid eye contact. Stand still, with your hands at your sides. Try not to show fear.
- Once the dog loses interest, slowly back away until the dog is out of sight.
- Never run, kick or make loud noises, which could aggravate the dog or encourage pursuit.
- If a dog lunges at you, put whatever you can between you and the dog, such as your jacket, purse or bag.
- If a dog knocks you down, curl into a ball and lie still. Cover your face, neck and ears with your arms and hands.
Dog bites prevention is possible! Please spread the word to help.
No one ever wants to be in a situation where a dog bite happens. To avoid it, be sure your own dog is thoroughly trained and will follow your cues. And for dogs you don’t know, always be respectful and don’t get too close if you aren’t sure of a dog’s mood or temperament.
By behaving respectfully around pets that you know and those you don’t – and by teaching kids to do so too – the vast majority of bites can be prevented. That way, we can all enjoy our time with the very good dogs we love.