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Dog Bite Prevention


Therapy dog “Spumoni” attends an NHES program to help youth learn about safe interactions with dogs.

Approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs in the United States each year. In most cases, the victim is between the ages of 5 and 9 years old, and the dog involved is most often a family pet. Dog bites may result in lasting consequences to both people and dogs. Fortunately, everyone can do their part to prevent dog bites. Read answers to the following FAQs to learn more about dog bites and how they can be prevented.

Why do dogs bite?
Even the most docile, friendly-natured dog with no history of aggression can bite, particularly when afraid or protecting a cherished object, such as food, toys, puppies, a favorite spot, or even a family member. Dogs showing body language that demonstrate fear or protectiveness should not be approached.

How can I make my dog less likely to bite someone?

  • If possible, socialize your dog while he or she is still a puppy.
  • Socialization is more difficult once a dog has reached adulthood. Implement obedience training as early as possible.
  • Use positive training methods to teach your dog to come, sit, and stay.
  • Do not chain your dog continuously or allow your dog to roam your neighborhood.
  • Spay and neuter your pet. Spayed and neutered animals are statistically less likely to bite.
  • Do not hit or smack your dog. Even a “light” smack on the nose teaches a dog to associate an approaching hand with punishment.

How can I prevent my child from being bitten by a dog?

  • Teach children, as early as possible, that animals have feelings and deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.
  • Do not allow children to hug, kiss, tease, step, or lay on dogs — even a tolerant family pet. Children who practice safety with their own dog will do so unfamiliar dogs.
  • Require your children to obtain permission from you and a dog’s owner before meeting a new dog.
  • Instruct children to speak calmly and move slowly in the presence of a nervous or unfamiliar dog.
  • Always supervise interactions between young children and dogs.
  • Do not allow children to put their face near the face of a dog.
  • Do not force interaction between a child and dog.
  • When meeting an unfamiliar dog, children should pet the dog on the back or chest, not the head.

How should I greet a new dog?
No matter your age, everyone should practice the same precautions when meeting a new dog.
1. First, examine the dog’s body language. If he/she appears stiff, on guard, or frightened, wait until the dog feels better.
2. Always ask permission from the owner, even if the dog appears eager to meet you.
3. Walk slowly, speak calmly – being sure not to surprise the dog.
4. Allow the dog to sniff you, even if it’s your elbow, leg or knee.
5. Don’t bend over a dog who doesn’t know you well. Bend your knees and pet the dog gently on the back or chest – not the head.

My dog is such a scaredy-cat. Could he or she really bite?
Possibly. Fear and submission are not the same. A fearful dog is more likely to bite than a dog who is comfortable in a given situation.

What are some signs that a dog is about to bite?
Dogs very seldom bite without warning. Unfortunately, body language cues that precede a bite often go unnoticed by humans. A dog who is approaching his or her limit may press his or her ears tightly against the head, put his or her tail low between the legs, display stiff, tight body posture, raise hackles, lip-lick, glance away, emit growls, or attempt to retreat. As a last resort bite, a dog may “air snap.” Naturally, some people mistake air-snapping for a failed attempt at an actual bite. In actuality, a dog employs air-snapping as a final warning that a real bite is imminent.

What should I do if I am walking or biking and encounter an aggressive dog?
If you encounter a dog who is acting aggressively, do not run, scream, or gesture to the dog. Stand still, remain quiet, look away from the dog, and slowly walk backwards to the nearest shelter. If the dog knocks you over, curl into a tight ball with your hands over your head and neck.

What should I know about rabies?
Rabies is a disease of the central nervous system that is transmitted through bites from infected animals. Thanks to the routine use of the preventative rabies vaccine, the rabies virus is relatively uncommon in companion animals. However, rabies is a deadly virus that can infect any mammal, including humans. Once symptoms develop, there is no cure and the fatality rate nears 99.9%. As required by law, make sure every dog and cat in your home is vaccinated against rabies and keeps vaccination records in an accessible place. Learn more about rabies and dog bite prevention on the website of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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