How to Avoid Dog Bites

This week is dedicated to educating people about the potential for suffering a bite from an angry, aggravated, or fearful dog–which is a possibility no matter how friendly and nice their disposition normally is. Each year, more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs, many such victims requiring potentially expensive medical attention. We’ve talked about this topic before, but we believe it bears ongoing emphasis because it’s such an important issue to be aware of and prepared to handle and, hopefully, avoid altogether.

Children are the most likely to be bitten, often because they are unaware of how to safely approach or interact with a pup, or how to recognize signs that a dog may not be comfortable with a situation. Dogs most often bite out of fear or distress rather than actual anger or aggression. Their safe space is being invaded, they feel cornered, they’re being approached by a stranger, or forced into some other unfamiliar situation. The biting is a self-defense mechanism employed to make potential threats back off, or sometimes in reaction to unexpected injury (such as having hair yanked, tails pulled, or other attacks on themselves).

So a big step is to inform kids of how to approach dogs (even family pets) in ways that are non-threatening and put both the child and animal at ease.

Another critical thing to do is help a dog become socialized, both with people and other animals. This can be a slow process where they are gradually introduced to other humans and creatures in a controlled environment where they feel safer and can be removed should tension escalate. If your dog seems to be having issues interacting with people and other pets in a healthy manner, speak to a local trainer or vet about techniques you can employ to help them learn to be more social.

Always respect an owner’s boundaries with their dog. Don’t pet someone else’s dog without asking for permission first, as the owner might be able to warn you that the dog doesn’t feel comfortable with strangers, avoiding an unsafe situation altogether. Definitely don’t try to pet service dogs, as they are dedicated to keeping their human safe in potentially hazardous environments. Also, don’t let your own dog run up to an unknown dog without their owner giving permission as well. Your dog may be the friendliest one in the world, but the other dog could be quite aggressive, and you certainly don’t want your pup being bitten when they were just wanting to play.

And check out resources on learning to recognize other high-risk dog bite situations so you can take preventative action. This will help everyone both two- and four-legged be far safer in the long run.

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