How to Prevent Dog Bites

Lindsey ZimmermanDog Health

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, more than 4.5 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs each year with one in five requiring medical attention. We’ve all read stories where people are disfigured or even killed by a dog attack which is tragic.

In fact, more than 6,500 mailmen are bitten by dogs each year! No wonder they are afraid to get out of their trucks.

Children are the most likely victims, often bitten by a dog in their own home or a friend’s home. Children (particularly boys ages 5 – 9) are three times more likely than adults to be seriously bitten (mainly in the face or neck), because kids are around the same height as a dog and because they can crawl into small, low places where dogs can reach. Unfortunately, 50% of children will be bitten by a dog before their 12th birthday. Men are also more prone to dog bites than women.

In addition to being physically and emotionally scarring, dog bites can be costly as well. State Farm Insurance, paid nearly $1 billion in accident-related claims involving a dog over the last decade.

Are these bad dogs? Mean dogs? The answer is dogs have a reason when they bite and it is often not malicious. They generally do so out of fear, protectiveness or see it as a last resort.

However, there are many precautions you can take to minimize your chances of being bitten by a dog:

  • Never approach a strange dog before he sees you and sniffs you.
  • Never approach a dog who is sleeping, eating or playing with her puppies.
  • Never turn your back on a dog you don’t know or try to run away – he will just chase you.
  • Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
  • Never encourage your own dog to act aggressively. If you have a “guard dog” make sure he responds appropriately to your commands.
  • Remind your children that the dog is not a horse or a playground and should not be ridden, prodded or annoyed.
  • Never let your child approach a dog behind a fence or in a car. Dogs can be very protective of their home or space.

What should you do if a strange dog approaches you?

  • Don’t scream.
  • Avoid eye contact with the dog.
  • Stand still with your hands by your side. Generally, this will lead the dog to turn away when he realizes you are not a threat.
  • Back away slowly, never taking your eyes off the dog.
  • If the dog keeps approaching, offer him anything you’re holding — a purse or jacket, for example — or anything that may distract him.
  • If you tumble to the ground, curl into a ball, put your hands over your ears and stay still — resist the urge to yell, scream or move around.

Warning signs a dog a dog is about to bite? Some of these are subtle and can even appear friendly:

  • He freezes and his body is rigid.
  • He curls his lips and bares his teeth.
  • He growls.
  • His fur is standing up.
  • He is yawning and avoiding eye contact.
  • He is cowering and tucking his tail.
  • You can see the whites of his eyes.
  • He starts scratching, biting or licking himself.

If you are a dog owner, never assume that your dog won’t bite. Any dog can bite under the wrong conditions. Dogs bite out of fear, protectiveness, or over excitement. Or maybe the dog is just grumpy or sick.

If you’re a dog owner, there are certain things you can do to help prevent a dog from biting. First, spay/neuter your dog which can reduce aggressiveness. Second, supervise your dog – don’t take chances. Third, train your dog in obedience and never shake, choke, hold the dog down or roll the dog over to teach it a lesson. Negative actions or violence can teach your dog to be aggressive. Dogs treated this way are likely to turn their aggression on weaker family members.

Having a well-behaved family dog will keep you out of trouble and ensure you have a great and loyal family pet.