National Dog Bite Prevention Week

Did you know that 4.7 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs every year and that the majority of those bitten are children? In recognition of National Dog Bite Prevention week (April 8-14), we would like to offer some helpful tips on how to prevent a dog bite from occurring.

Dogs don’t bite because they are “bad” dogs. They generally bite because they are afraid, feel threatened, or are protecting something. All dogs possess a survival mechanism that cues them to bite – an innate response which has ensured their existence. Protecting their food, their offspring, and their territory is as important as protecting themselves from predators, or anything that MIGHT be a predator. (In the dog world, “bite first, ask questions later” seems to have worked out well.) To interact with dogs in our world, we simply need to remember a few basic rules.

If you are approached by unfamiliar dog, you need to resist the urge to run. Keep your hands at your sides, remain motionless, and avoid eye contact with the dog. Once the dog loses interest in you, slowly back away until the dog is out of sight. Don’t ever approach an unfamiliar dog, especially one that is confined in a yard or car. Their instinct will be to protect his territory.

So, what about meeting a dog that is accompanied by their owner? Some guidelines to use in this situation are recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Follow this acronym: W.A.I.T.

WAIT to make sure that the dog looks friendly. If the dog looks afraid or angry, STOP and walk away slowly.
ASK the owner for permission before you pet their dog. STOP if the owner says no.
INVITE the dog to sniff you by using a quiet voice, keeping your hands curled against your thighs. If the dog does not come over to sniff you, STOP and do not touch the dog.
TOUCH the dog gently and never pet near the face, head or tail. Pet them on their back.

At home, with your own dog, there are some rules for you and your children to remember. No matter how well-behaved a dog is, don’t ever leave a dog alone with a child….ever. Teach your children to leave your dog alone when it is eating, sleeping, chewing on a toy, or caring for puppies. Always make sure your dog sees you before you try to pet him. Startling your dog, in any way, may cause him to bite out of fear. Don’t ever stare at your dog. Staring, in the animal kingdom, is a challenge for dominance. Your dog may respond with aggression.

By making a few adjustments to OUR behavior around dogs, a bite is usually avoidable. The relationship we have withthese beautiful creatures is certainly worth the risk. ©

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