According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), more than 4.5 million people a year are bitten by dogs in the United States, with 800,000 or more of them requiring medical attention.
Because this week, May 18 to 24, is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, let’s look at a few ways to avoid becoming a statistic.
Nip Biting in the Bud
The single most effective thing you can do to prevent your dog from biting someone, including yourself, is to neuter him. Although neutering a dog isn’t a guarantee that he’ll never bite anyone, it will eliminate all that unnecessary testosterone — the cause of many a fight.
Here are a few other preventive measures you can take.
- Socialize your puppy from an early age, making sure he understands what behaviors are appropriate with people and other dogs.
- Teach your dog basic commands — especially recall, sit and stay — so that if you sense that a situation is potentially dangerous, you’ll be able to remove your dog from it without getting involved yourself.
- Discourage your dog from play-biting. If you teach him to bite on your hands and arms, it’s more likely he’ll bite for real, and not always gently. Also avoid loud, noisy wrestling, which can quickly turn into a snarling match. If your dog does bite during play, redirect him to a stuffed animal without a squeaker inside. We really like the cheeky Silly Bums dog toys.
- Keep your pet on a leash whenever you take him out in public. No exceptions.
- If your dog begins to growl at or threaten another dog, remove him from the situation immediately. Fights can escalate quickly, so pay attention to your dog’s body language and respond accordingly.
- Whenever you introduce a dog into a new situation, especially when other canines are present, observe all of them closely so you can remove your dog if things begin to get tense.
- If you don’t know a dog, don’t approach it unless its caretaker indicates you may. If the pet parent tells you the dog is not friendly, don’t push it. The caretaker knows her pet better than you do.
- If you find yourself in the middle of a dog fight, stay out of it unless you know what you’re doing.
Take this opportunity to sit down with your family and talk with them about dog safety. Even the most docile dog can bite if sufficiently provoked.
Protect Your Children
AVMA statistics show that children are the most frequent victims of dog bites, usually acquired from horsing around. Make sure your children understand how to interact appropriately with canines, especially when they’re meeting a dog for the first time.
Use common sense and make sure that you don’t leave your young children unsupervised around your pet, even if he’s always been the sweetest thing in the world. If your child is holding a Cheeto, your adorable little Yorkie might bite your child’s fingers going after it.
Here are a few more great tips from the AVMA:
What to Do If You Are Bitten
Dog bites are nothing to mess around with. If a dog bites you hard enough to draw blood, especially if it’s a puncture wound, go to the doctor immediately, even if it means going to the ER in the middle of the night.
Your risk for infection is high, so expect to take a course of antibiotics.
While at the hospital, you’ll probably be asked to fill out a dog bite report. Even if you aren’t acquainted with the animal that bit you, supply as much information as you can. The Centers for Disease Control compiles important statistics that affect the way certain breeds are perceived. More people report bites from pit bulls, Rottweilers and Dobermans than from dachshunds, but as my poor scarred arms can attest, Dachshunds bite plenty!
For more information about preventing dog bites, visit the AVMA website.