Even though dogs are man's best friend, they have been known to bitetheir owners, strangers and other dogs. In fact, every year more than 4.7 million people suffer a dog bite, with small children and the elderly among the most frequent targets.One out of every 5 of those bites requires medical attention and a trip to the emergency room and more than 30,000 victims require reconstructive surgery.
These are not necessarily stray dogs. Most of the dog bites occur in the home of the victim's family member or friends by a dog that is known to them. Children (particularly boys ages 5 - 9) are three times more likely than adults to be seriously bitten (mainly in the face or neck, mainly 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.
Dogs don't typically bite for no reason - in fact most do so out of fear and use their fight instinct only when they believe it to be their last resort. Having a professional come to help you determine why your dog has bitten can not only save your family a lot of heartache, but it can also save your dog's life.
While familiar dogs are most likely the culprit, it's also important that you take the necessary measures to lessen the likelihood of a bite in cases where you are approached by a strange dog.
Should an unfamiliar dog approach you, here are some tips to keep you safe:
- Don't turn and run or the dog will think it is fun and give chase.
- 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.
- Don't put your hand out - just allow the dog to approach you to sniff you.
- Don't scream.
- Avoid eye contact with the dog.
- Back away slowly, never taking your eye off the dog until the dog is out of sight.
Tips for Parents
- Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
- Never let your children play with a dog if he is eating or feeding his/her puppies.
- Never allow your child to walk a dog unsupervised. You never know what other dog may appear along the walk.
- Remind your child that a dog is not a horse; therefore, he should not be ridden or annoyed by pulling on his tail or collar.
- never allow your child to approach an unfamiliar dog.
If you are bitten by a strange dog, the American Red Cross suggests you do not try to catch the dog on your own. Instead, call animal control or 911 so the animal can be contained and tested for rabies.
Understand that many puppies bite. Generally, they will do so as they are teething or as they are growing during rough play or to assert themselves. It is important that you spend time educating your puppy and teaching him acceptable levels of play without biting at you. You will need to work with your dog to eliminate budding aggression by establishing good canine leadership.
To deter your puppy from nipping, never use a physical reprimand. Doing so could give your dog more reason to think he should bite you. Instead, use good body language and an effective tone to communicate your dog's mistake and as importantly guide your dog to acceptable items to use his teeth on, like a chew toy, and reinforce with high pitched, happy praise.
If your dog snaps at or bites you, don't overreact. Remain calm and still - assuming it's not a serious bite. When the situation has diffused, calmly step back and try to determine WHY your dog bit - What were you doing at that moment? How did you approach the dog? What was the dog doing at the time? Was there a 'resource' of high value near the dog? Is your dog aging or in pain (ear, tooth, joints, etc.)? Your dog will not bite you for no reason. Again, consider the assistance of a professional if you need help diagnosing your dog's aggressive behavior.
Many times, we as Bark Busters dog behavioral therapists are called into our client's homes to help dog owners overcome dog biting and/or dog aggression. This is one of our specialties, so if you need help please call. We don't want your dog to be taken away or euthanized by animal control for biting a passerby.