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|Dog Tip: Avoiding and Preventing Dog Bites|
* Dog bite insight
Dog Bite Insight
Dogs bite several million people each year in the U.S., with a large percentage serious enough to require medical attention. While biting is a natural form of communication in a dog's world, it's not acceptable in the human world. So owners need to teach their dogs to refrain from biting.
In addition to injuring people and other animals, bites can lead to expensive medical bills and criminal liability suits for the owner, plus put the biting dog's future in jeopardy.
Children make up more than 60 percent of all dog bite victims. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates half of all children 12 and younger have been bitten by a dog. The elderly, mail carriers and meter readers also are high on the list of frequent dog bite victims.
* Most dog bites can be prevented through responsible dog ownership and practicing safe behavior around dogs.
* Learned behavior, genetics and owner supervision, not breed, are what typically determine the likelihood of a dog severely biting a human. When dogs bite, typically it's out of fear, to defend their territory, or to establish their dominance. Owners have the ability and the responsibility to keep their dogs from harming a person or another animal.
* Any breed can bite, as shown by county and city bite statistics as well as national research studies. And any dog, including yours, has the capability to bite. Although genetics play some part in determining whether a dog will bite, the Humane Society of the United States emphasizes that factors such as whether the dog is neutered or spayed, properly socialized, supervised, humanely trained and safely confined play a significantly greater role. Thus, it is essential to educate yourself and your household members as well as your dog.
* Breed-specific laws are in effect in a few jurisdictions in the U.S. One of the problems with breed-specific legislation is that it targets dogs by type rather than making owners responsible for properly managing dogs and keeping them from becoming a public threat. And it does not discourage people who intentionally train dogs to intimidate and attack. Far better solutions include enforcing and improving existing animal control laws, and establishing nonbreed-specific dangerous dog laws. The most effective dangerous dog laws are those that place the legal responsibility for a dog's actions on the owner rather than on the dog.
How to use socialization and training to reduce the chances a dog will bite:
* Socialize your dog starting the day you bring her home, so that she feels safe and at ease with people of all ages and types and appearances, and with other dogs, and in diverse situations. Include your dog on family outings. (See other free Dog Tipsheets on Socialization.)
* Expose your dog to a variety of situations gradually and under controlled circumstances. Be cautious; do not put your dog in a position where he feels threatened. Teach him to not be nervous in these situations.
* Train your dog so she knows how to behave, and so you can manage her behavior at all times. Teach the basic commands "sit," "stay," "down," "no" or "nah-ah-ah", and "come" to build a bond of obedience and trust. Dogs are not born knowing how to act in the human world. They depend on their owners to teach them how to behave.
* Make sure every member of your household learns and then practices the same training techniques, and participates in the dog's education.
* Obedience class is a good way to socialize your dog.
* Earn your dog's respect through consistent and positive training, protecting your dog from potential threats indoors and outside, and responsible management.
* Reward your dog for listening and for respectful, responsive behaviors.
* Encourage trusting behaviors such as having your dog roll over and let you scratch his belly, and allowing you to touch his paws.
* Vaccinate dogs against rabies, make sure they are regularly examined by vets, keep them healthy and well-fed, and be alert to any change in behavior. Sick dogs and those in pain are more prone to biting.
* Neuter and spay your dog. Studies show that unneutered male dogs have a higher tendency to roam, show territoriality and display some types of aggression than their neutered counterparts.
* Understand the breed traits of your dog, and read extensively about dogs before getting a dog.
* Be alert. Know your dog. Learn to understand her body language - posture, expressions, ear and tail positions that can signal when she is upset, frightened or over-excited.
* Do not teach a dog any aggressive behaviors and beware of inadvertently rewarding such behaviors. Don't wrestle or play rough games. If playing tug of war, make sure you always win and that you determine when to start and finish the game. Realize that dogs use play to establish rank in a relationship. The human should always act as leader.
* Do not encourage guarding behavior in a dog. This usually backfires. Just having a dog is enough to discourage unwanted visitors, so you do not have to teach the dog to "guard" or "protect" your family and property. Encouraging such behavior can lead to a troubled and anxious dog, aggression and bites.
* Be a responsible dog owner. Always use a leash outside (when not in a fully fenced yard) and keep your dog from approaching other people and animals. When in a yard, make sure the fence is of adequate height, and supervise the dog when he's outside. Remember, proper supervision and management can prevent most dog bites.
* Give your dog enough exercise. Exercise relieves stress in dogs and gives them a positive outlet for their energy.
* Spend time with your dog. Dogs are social animals. Those frequently left alone have a greater tendency to develop behavior problems.
* Do not confine dogs in non-family areas such as dark basements or garages, since being with the pack is necessary for maintaining a well-socialized canine.
* Keeping a pet happy, healthy and well-supervised is key to avoiding problems. Remember, it's always better to avoid the development of problem then to have to solve them later.
If your dog growls, nips or bites at people or other animals:
Consult your veterinarian to first rule out medically based factors. Then consult a good canine behavior specialist right away. Do not wait until the problem starts getting out of hand.
How to keep a dog out of trouble - and keep him from biting:
* Always keep your eye on the dog, especially outside and in new environments.
* Remember that any dog can bite if provoked or if perceiving a threat.
* Something we don't perceive as a threat, such as a child running up to hug us, may well be perceived by the dog as a threat.
* Watch for signs your dog is uncomfortable, anxious or feeling threatened, and take action. Get her attention and remove her from the situation. Act firmly, swiftly and confidently, and do not telegraph anxiety to your dog.
* A tired dog is more likely to display aggression when bothered, so when your dog gets tired, remove her from social situations.
* Even when playing a game, a dog can get excited and forget his human companion is not a dog. Fetch, Frisbee, hide and seek, agility practice and flyball are better outlets for a dog's energy.
* Respect a dog's space. Dogs by nature defend their territories. Sticking your hand inside a strange dog's pen or a car window where a dog is sitting and he might bite to protect his territory.
* When friends visit your house, introduce them to your dog and explain the house rules. Same goes for petsitters.
* If your dog exhibits territorial aggression, keep him in another room when you have visitors.
* Do not leave a dog unattended in the yard, or else he will likely engage in fence-running, barking and other territory-guarding behaviors. And never leave the house when your dog is outside, which can lead to your dog or someone else getting hurt.
* Never chain up a dog. Chaining triggers extreme frustration and anxiety. Many children are bitten when approaching a chained dog.
* Watch your dog for any signs of aggression. If you observe any signs, deal with the situation immediately. Bring your dog's attention back to you, act confidently and firmly, and remove your dog from the situation. Get help from canine behavior specialists, articles and books, and work on your dog's behavior issues and training needs.
* If your dog tries to bite, nip or even snap at someone, take it seriously. Consult your veterinarian to see if the aggression might be stemming from a medical problem. And meet with a canine behavior specialist. Do not delay!
How to keep kids - and adults - from getting bitten by dogs:
* Realize that many dogs may see active children as prey because of their size, energetic and sudden movements, wild gestures and other factors. Consequently, children are more likely to get bitten. And they are also more likely to be bitten on the face.
* Teach children starting at toddler age how to calmly and cautiously behave around pets.
* Never leave young children alone with dogs. Never!
* Teach children to stay away from strange animals.
* Teach them that dogs confined in a yard or chained up are more likely to bite due to territorial instincts, so stay out of other yards.
* Before approaching a dog, teach kids to ask the owner if the dog is friendly and if you can pet her. Adults should practice this advice too. There may be a very good reason why a dog should not be touched. She may be injured, ill, or afraid of children.
* Approach a dog from the front or side, slowly, steadily, with relaxed body posture and a smile. With many dogs, it's best to avoid direct eye contact at first. Hold your hands low and speak softly. Keep hands close to the body, flat-fingered with palm facing in. Before attempting to reach over and pet the dog, make sure the dog sees you. Even if the owner claims the dog is always friendly - remember, the dog has a mind of his own. Let the dog sniff you first to see if you have his permission to even try to touch him. If the dog seems accepting of you, stroke the side of his head or gently scratch his neck. Do not pat the top of his head, since many dogs interpret this as a threatening behavior.
* If the dog shows any sign that she does not want to be petted, do not pet the dog. If the dog backs up, do not pursue her.
* Often children and adults try to embrace the dog or bend down over it, but these can be interpreted as aggressive, dominant postures by the dog. If a dog feels threatened, he may growl, lunge or bite.
* Do not tease or surprise dogs, sneak up from behind, or force them into a corner.
* Do not bother dogs when they're eating, sleeping, chewing on their favorite items, or caring for puppies.
* Remember that many dogs can get defensive of their food dish. Retraining is needed if your dog growls when you get near his dish, but you shouldn't interfere with his eating.
* Many dogs have strong feelings for their toys and treats. Never try to take a bone or toy from a dog's mouth unless you have trained him to drop it and give it to you first.
* Do not disturb guide and assistance dogs and other dogs involved in work activities.
* Do not run past dogs. Dogs like to chase moving objects, and tend to try to catch moving things with their teeth.
* Do not stick hands through fences, windows, etc. to touch a dog and do not press your face against a fence or pet crate.
* Do not excite dogs. No screaming, giggling, hopping around, waving hands, kicking feet, wrestling, hugging, roughhousing, pushing, poking, prodding, tail- or ear-pulling, etc. If you really watch children around dogs, you'll notice that some kids intentionally rile up dogs. Kids must be taught that they are not permitted to engage in any provocative behavior. Some adults need this lesson too. Countless dogs have been given up and put to death because a child or adult provoked them to bite.
* Learn to, and teach others to, observe canine body language. Dogs normally will not resort to biting unless they think you have not heeded their warnings. Watch out for a dog who is barking, growling, or showing his teeth. Beware if his ears are back, legs, stiff, tail up, or hair standing up on his back. Slowly walk away and say "No" firmly, arms by your side. Do not scream, stare into his eyes, or run away. If you run, he will chase you and may attack.
* If two dogs begin fighting, make sure children know that they should get an adult right away. Remain quiet and calm. Sometimes a fight can be stopped by spraying with a garden hose, dumping buckets of water on the dogs, or squirting with lemon juice placed in a squirt bottle.
* If you have friendly dogs, remind your children that not all dogs will be as friendly.
If you see a loose dog:
* Leave the dog alone, and don't call attention to yourself.
* If the dog approaches, stand still like a tree. Avoid eye contact. Do not yell or scream, and do not turn and run. Most of the time, the dog will sniff and then leave when determining you're not a threat.
* Dogs like to chase, so don't try to run away from the dog.
* If a dog lunges or tries to bite, give him your bag, bike, coat or anything else to chew on. Stay still or slowly back away.
* If you fall down, curl into a ball with your hands protecting your head and neck. Lie still until the dog leaves.
If you are bitten:
* Children should tell a parent or adult in the neighborhood right away.
* Wash the wound with lots of soap and water.
* Report the loose dog to animal control or the police so that they can find the dog.
* Go to the doctor immediately.
If your dog bites someone:
* Restrain your dog immediately. Separate him from the scene of the attack, then confine him.
* Take responsibility for the situation.
* Check on the victim's condition. Wash wounds with soap and water. Get the victim to a doctor; call 911 if needed.
* Provide important information such as your name, address, information about your dog's most recent rabies vaccination. Dogs lacking current rabies vaccinations must be quarantined.
* Comply with local ordinances and other requirements regarding the reporting of dog bites.
* Consult your veterinarian and a canine behavior specialist without delay.
Other essential reading:
Childproofing a Dog
Bite Inhibition - an Essential Part of Socialization
Socialization: What it is, basic principles, socializing young and new dogs
Socialization for Adult Dogs
Dog Bite Legal Information
Excellent Books about Dog Behavior, Training, Care and Management
Responsible Pet Ownership presentations
Dog Bite Prevention print materials for children and adults:
BARK: Be Aware, Responsible and Kind
Humane Society of the United States bite prevention information
American Veterinary Medical Association bite prevention information and activities
For more free tipsheets on canine behavior, aggression, health, management and humane education, see the Dog Tips index at:
Partnership for Animal Welfare
|Last Updated: November 29, 2011 (LET)||PawSupport|