Today starts National Dog Bite Prevention Week (May 20 – 26). There are as many as 4.7 million people each year who get bitten by a dog in the United States, with the most common victim being under the age of 12. Most often, a child is bitten by a dog he or she knows – either their own pet or that of a neighbor. Senior citizens are also commonly injured by dog bites.
What can you do to prevent your dog from biting? The biggest, most important deterrent is proper socialization and training. One of the most common reasons a dog bites is out of fear, and socialization can reduce your dog’s fear factor by introducing him or her to different sounds, situations, and people during the time when most dogs are fear-free: puppyhood.
Consider taking your dog to puppy classes as soon as you bring the animal home. Take your young dog everywhere you go (to the extent possible). Even walking around your neighborhood will introduce your dog to loud cars, strange people (some stranger than others), and other things that will later be recognizable and less scary.
Proper training is also important. Make sure your dog will come back to you if he goes tearing off after someone. Your dog must come back to you on the first call, every time. He or she must also sit, lie down, and stay on command.
Make sure you teach your children how to act towards dogs, as well. You can use the WAIT system to help keep them from getting bitten.
W: wait to see if the dog looks friendly
A: ask the owner for permission to pet the dog
I: invite the dog to come to you, rather than approaching the dog
T: touch the dog gently along the back rather than touching the head or tail
Finally, keep your dog under your control at all times. Inside or outdoors, your dog is your responsibility. This may require a leash or even a crate, but you must keep the dog from even having an opportunity to bite someone.
Until next time,
Good day, and good dog!