The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) says that dogs should not be feared, but rather we, as humans, need to know and understand why bites occur in order to help prevent them. Dog trainers, including those that are now popular television personalities, like Victoria Stillwell and Caesar Milan, agree that issues with dogs are usually rooted with the humans that interact with them. Statistics show that 4.7 million people are bitten by a dog every year, so it’s important for you to become educated on what you can do to avoid becoming one of them!
Here’s what you can do:
#1 Carefully select a dog you adopt or purchase as a family pet. Instead of making decisions based on impulse, carefully consider your personal lifestyle, the pet’s personality and behavior to be sure he/she is a perfect fit for your home by evaluating how the pet behaves around you and all family members—including your other pets!
#2 Train your new dog to behave as you wish him/her to behave as a member of your family! Seek professional advice from your veterinarian or a professional dog trainer if needed. Some dog trainers will provide a free consultation to assess your dog’s needs and create a training plan for you and your pet. The training plan should include all members of your family so that everyone handles your new dog in the same way. This gives your dog consistency which is key to a well behaved dog.
#3 Train your family to treat your dog and ALL DOGS with respect. Work with your dog in a manner that avoids use of intimidation, threats, teasing or highly excitable games as these techniques can confuse the dog and are not productive. Rough play can escalate into biting without any advance notice.
#4 Handle strange dogs (any dog you have not been introduced to before) with CAUTION! Never leave a baby or young child alone with a dog; teach children of ALL ages to be respectful and careful around all pets. They should not approach, stroke, reach through fences, windows or doors at pets. They should ask the pet owner’s permission before petting any animal.
#5 Leash your dog . Most communities inMassachusetts andNew Hampshire have leash laws which require dogs be leashed. Dogs can behave very differently in unfamiliar surroundings, especially in public where there is a tremendous amount of new and different stimulation from sounds, smells and sites that the dogs are not normally exposed to. This can lead to problematic behaviors which can be difficult for a dog owner to control. Leashing helps to keep all dogs and people safe.
#6 Keep your pet healthy. To avoid a potentially problematic situation, pets should remain current on all annual vaccinations and have at least one physical exam per year. Too, we recommend you consider further care that your veterinarian may recommend. A current rabies vaccination is required by Massachusetts and New Hampshire state laws. You may not realize that other dogs are not properly vaccinated for rabies which puts you, your dog and your other family members at risk of rabies exposure should any of you come in contact with an unvaccinated dog.
#7 Remember: your dog is an animal! He/she is not a four-legged person with the same abilities to think, problem solve and make decisions like you. While we all love and adore our dogs—and make them a true member of our families in every way possible—we want to make sure that we always understand that a dog is a dog when it comes to situations that are out of control.
#8 Spay or Neuter your dog: According to the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA/avma.org), an unspayed female dog in “heat” may be more likely to fight with other female dogs, including female dogs in the household, and can be anxious and short-tempered as well. In addition, there are health risks for unspayed female dogs including uterine infections and breast cancer. Unneutered male dogs can become aggressive and be more likely to get into fights with other animals, causing injury to themselves, the other animals or people. Unneutered and unspayed dogs are more likely to roam and be hit by a motor vehicle, resulting in injury and/or death to the dog, as well as to the driver.
#9 Avoid bringing your dog into highly excitable or uncontrolled situations such as a dog park without fencing or an area where you see or hear dogs barking, fighting or playing without supervision. In addition, use caution if bringing your dog to a friend’s house where there are dogs unfamiliar to you or your pet or you are out in public with your pet unleashed. Highly excitable situations can trigger a reaction from fear in your dog that you did not expect. Once you enter into any of these situations with your dog, he/she may feel trapped, threatened, intimidated, afraid or angry, thereby leaving your pet unable to escape or incapable of avoiding an unpleasant outcome.
#10 Pay special attention to children and elderly family members. Make certain that neither is left alone with a dog. Both can be innocently knocked down and injured, and both are common victims of dog bites!
Resources for more information:
1-The Blue Dog Parent Guide and CD
2-Bilingual Dog Bite Prevention activity/coloring book
3-What you should know about dog bite prevention brochure
4-Victoria Stillwell Shares Tips to Stop Dogs from Biting
5-Handling an Injured Pet
6-Dog Bite Prevention: Sensible Advice