We all know what wonderful, friendly companions dogs can be, but even the cutest, cuddliest puppy will bite if it feels threatened or scared.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, nearly 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year. The majority of these injuries are caused by canines owned by family members or friends. Not surprisingly, the victims are usually children under the age of 14, and they often require medical attention as a result.
The third week in May is National Dog Bite Prevention Week. The purpose of this annual event is to educate people about responsible dog ownership and instruct all of us how to engage in safe behavior around dogs. Here’s a little crash course to get you started.
If you want to avoid dog bites, you can start by not adopting a dog on impulse. You should always do your homework and find a breed that will fit in well with your family.
Be a responsible dog owner
“It’s imperative to be sensitive about how children in your family react around dogs,” advises a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics. “If they are particularly fearful, it might be not be a good idea to adopt a pet until they are older and have outgrown their initial fears.”
Once you do adopt a dog, take the time to enroll him in obedience school. A good course will help him develop into a good canine citizen. When he graduates, he should understand basic commands and be well socialized both around other people and around other dogs. Just remember, the training can’t stop at the end of class. Continue to reinforce basic commands such as “sit,” “stay,” “no” and “come”; those commands may help you prevent a bite someday. And if you incorporate them into fun activities, your dog won’t even know you’re continuing his education.
Being a responsible pet owner also means obeying leash laws, ensuring that your pal gets lots of daily exercise, and never leaving him unattended where he might pose a threat to home service providers such as postal workers or to visiting family and friends.
Spay and neuter
Veterinarians claim that spayed and neutered dogs show fewer aggressive tendencies and are less likely to bite. If you adopt a pet from a shelter, you will be required to spay or neuter your new dog before you can take your pet home. If you adopt from another source, be sure to schedule the necessary procedure at the appropriate age.
It’s also a good idea to ensure your pet gets regular medical checkups. Parasite control and general health care are important, because how your dog feels directly affects how he behaves.
Tips to avoid bites
It’s up to you to make sure your children and dog have a good relationship — that means teaching your child to respect your dog from the moment you bring your new pet home. Children must be taught never to pull a dog’s tail or poke it in the eyes or put their hands in its mouth. And even if your pal has a wonderful, easygoing nature, it’s never a good idea to leave a baby or small child unattended in your dog’s company.
Make it a house rule to never disturb your dog if he is eating, sleeping or caring for puppies. Watch for signs that your dog may be uncomfortable in certain situations. Never allow your dog to feel threatened by other dogs or to be teased by either family members or strangers.
You should also teach your kids that they should never approach or pet a strange dog without checking with its owner first. And if a strange dog approaches to sniff you, stand still. It will usually go away once it has determined you are not a threat. If you are threatened, be sure to remain calm, avoid eye contact and try backing away slowly. Never turn your back and run. If you fall or are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your head and neck to protect your face.
What should I do if my dog bites someone?
Even if you can explain why your dog bit somebody, for example if the person inadvertently stepped on your dog’s tail, it’s still important to take responsibility for your dog’s actions. The American Veterinary Medical Association advises people to take the following steps:
– Restrain your dog immediately and remove him from the scene of the attack.
– Check on the victim’s condition. Professional medical advice should be sought to evaluate the risk of rabies or other infections. Call 911 if paramedic response is required.
– Make sure you provide the victim with all important information such as your name, address and information about your dog’s most recent rabies vaccination.
– Comply with local ordinances regarding the reporting of dog bites. Some communities require that all dog bites be reported. Check at a police station.
And if you get bitten
Always make medical attention your first priority. If the dog’s owner is present, make sure you get all the necessary contact information. If there is no one around, try to note as many details about the dog as you can, so that you can pass the information on to animal control officers and assist them in locating the dog.
So many dog bites can be avoided. Let’s all note National Dog Bite Prevention Week as a means of keeping ourselves and our dogs safe from harm..