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Dog Bite Prevention Week
April 1, 2024

Dog Bite Prevention Week always takes place during the second week of April. This is a pretty serious issue. Every year, roughly 4.5 people are bitten by dogs. While fortunately many of those bites do not cause serious injury, many do require medical treatment, and a small number result in severe injuries. A local veterinarian goes over some information about dog bites in this article.

What Are The Statistics On Dog Bites?

The figures on this one are pretty concerning. According to data from the AMVA, there are between 84 and 89 million pet dogs in the U.S., and about 8 million in Canada. Or, to put it a bit differently, about 45 percent of homes have dogs. We already mentionted that there are about 4.5 million biting incidents per year. Unfortunately, that figure is rising. There was about a ten percent increase in dog bites in 2023.

Why Do Dogs Bite?

Dogs bite for a variety of reasons. While there are cases of loose dogs that are just aggressive, and will attack seemingly at random, most dogs bite as a reaction to something, and are usually acting to protect themselves or something or someone they value.

Here are some possible reasons:

  • Being startled
  • Being teased
  • Feeling crowded
  • Over-excited play behavior
  • Defending territory
  • Defending food
  • Defending puppies
  • Defending people
  • Prey drive
  • Stress
  • Fear
  • Pain
  • Distress
  • Anticipation of pain/punishment
  • Dominance
  • Anxiety
  • Rabies

How Can I Tell If A Dog Is Going To Bite?

You may often hear stories of people who have been bitten, claiming that the dog bit them with no warning. The truth is, dogs usually give plenty of warning. It’s just that many people don’t know what to look for and, therefore, miss the signals.

Learning a bit about Fido’s body language is really important, even—and perhaps especially—if you don’t have a dog of your own. There are many misconceptions about canine body language. For instance, most people know that dogs wag their tails when they are happy. However, it’s not as commonly known that they also wag their tails when they are uneasy: they just do it more slowly.

Here are some of the warning signs that a dog is feeling uneasy:

  • Growling
  • Yawning
  • Licking The Lips 
  • Stiff posture/freezing
  • Showing the whites of the eyes
  • Furrowing In The brow
  • Tension In The Jaw
  • Tail Slowly Wagging or held low
  • Shaking
  • Drooling 
  • Sweaty paws 

If you notice any of these in your dog, back off and give Fido some space.

Who Is Most At Risk Of Being Bitten By Dogs?

Sadly, children are most likely to be bitten. There are a few reasons for this. For one thing, very young children often move quickly. They may have high-pitched voices, which can set some pups on edge. They also do not know the do’s and don’ts of interacting with dogs. 

Elderly people are also at high risk, as are workers who visit people’s homes. That includes mail men, delivery drivers, meter readers, and others. 

How Do I Keep My Kids Safe From Dog Bites?

It’s never too soon to start teaching a little one the basics of communicating with Fido, and showing them what they should and should never do.

Here are the major things to teach children: 

  • Never pull Fido’s tail or ears.
  • Don’t take a dog’s toys, treats, or food.
  • Never reach through a fence or barrier to touch a dog.
  • Never touch or pet a loose dog.
  • Always approach dogs from the side.
  • Don’t disturb a dog that is sleeping or eating.
  • Stand still if a dog wants to sniff you.
  • Never tease a dog.
  • Always ask an owner’s permission before petting a dog.
  • Never hug a strange dog.
  • Don’t look a strange dog in the eye. 
  • If they find a hurt dog, get an adult.

Children also sometimes startle dogs by running past them, or sometimes just being loud. There’s also a lot of room for misinterpretation with toys, such as stuffed animals. For instance, Fido may want a child’s teddy bear, or the child may want Fido’s plushie. 

Keep in mind that things can escalate very, very quickly. Never leave children and dogs unattended. If you have a family dog, monitor all interactions between your young one and the dog.

What Do You Do If A Dog Attacks You?

Hopefully, you’ll never need to use this information. If you are approached by a dog that looks threatening, stop and stay still. If you say anything, speak calmly. You can back away slowly, but don’t run: that may just provoke the dog.

If the dog does attack, and you are pulled or knocked to the ground, curl into a ball and protect your face and head with your arms.

If you often like to take your pooch to trails or spots where you may run into a loose dog, it’s not a bad idea to have a deterrent with you, such as pepper spray.

How Do I Prevent My Dog From Biting? 

The vast majority of bites come from family pets. As a dog owner, it is your responsibility to do everything you can to prevent your dog from biting. 

Here are some tips for that: 

Keep Up With Fido’s Veterinary Care: This is important for many reasons, first and foremost being Fido’s health and well-being. Dogs are more likely to bite if they are in pain or discomfort, so doing everything you can to keep your pet in tip-top shape can help. The other reason this is important is that if your dog bites, and he isn’t current on his rabies protection, your pet could potentially be put down by authorities. Laws on this vary from place to place, but regardless of where you live, this is definitely not something to take lightly. If your canine companion hasn’t been to the vet in a while, make that appointment today! 

Choose A Family Pet Wisely: While any dog can bite, it is true that some are more reactive than others. Research Fido’s breed and history, and choose a friendly, well-behaved pup. 

Socialize Your Puppy: Did you know that dogs that were not properly socialized are more likely to bite? There is a specific window of time for socialization to happen: by the time little Fido is about 12 weeks old, time is running out. Ask your vet for socialization tips

Obey Leash Laws: Never let your canine buddy run around off-leash. If you have a yard, make sure that your fencing is secure.  

Keep An Eye On Fido’s Behavior: Pay close attention to your pet, and watch for signs that he is feeling uneasy or uncomfortable. If you notice any indications that your canine pal is feeling stressed or threatened, or warning signs that he may bite, talk to your vet or a pet behaviorist. 

Get Fido Fixed: Unneutered males are more likely to bite than fixed ones. Females in heat may have unwanted litters, and may cause agitation in males when they go into heat. Plus, there are already too many stray and homeless dogs in the world. You’ll also have a happier, calmer pooch on your hands!

Train Your Dog: Make sure that Fido knows and obeys basic obedience commands, such as Sit, Stay, and Come. 

Keep Your Canine Buddy Happy: Making sure that Fido is getting lots of attention, exercise, and playtime will keep that tail wagging, and keep him from building up excess energy. Every dog has different needs on this, so ask your vet for specific care tips. 

Do you have questions or concerns about your dog’s health or care? Is your canine buddy due for an exam? Contact us, your animal hospital, anytime!