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home : columns : columns April 29, 2016

6/24/2014 11:16:00 AM
Preventing your dog from biting
Never approach an unleashed, unfamilar dog. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee
+ click to enlarge
Never approach an unleashed, unfamilar dog. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee

By Jodi Schneider McNamee

The cutest little dog wagged his tail when you approached him at the park. How could it have turned into an aggressive dog and bite you when all you did was put out your hand for him to sniff?

Educating folks about how to interact properly with any dog is critically important when it comes to reducing dog-bite incidents.

Be aware of the fact that any dog can bite - from the smallest to the largest. Never approach an unfamiliar dog; respect his space and teach your children to do the same. Approximately four-and-a-half million people are bitten by dogs in the United States every year and one fifth of them end up needing medical attention for their wounds. Children are, by far, the most common victims of dog bites and are more likely to be severely injured.

According to State Farm Insurance, Oregon ranks 13th among the top 15 states for dog-bite claims.

There is no way to guarantee that your dog will never bite someone; but you can significantly reduce the risk. Spay or neuter your dog. This important routine procedure will reduce your dog's desire to roam and fight with other dogs. Spayed or neutered dogs are much less likely to bite.

Socialize your dog as soon as possible by introducing him to many different types of people and situations so that he isn't nervous or frightened under normal social circumstances. Enrolling your dog into a training class is an excellent way to socialize him and to learn proper training techniques. Since training Fido is a family matter, every member of the household should participate in his instruction techniques. Dogs that are well trained and socialized are much less likely to bite.

Exercise and play with your furry friend on a regular basis to reinforce the human-animal bond. An exercised dog will less likely have pent up nervous energy that can lead to biting. For everyone's safety don't let your dog roam unleashed.

Set appropriate limits for your dog's behavior. Don't wait for an accident. The first time he shows signs of dangerous behavior toward any person, seek professional help from your veterinarian, an animal behaviorist, or a qualified dog trainer.

Be a responsible pet parent by licensing your dog as required by law and providing regular veterinary care, including rabies vaccinations.

So now that Fido is well trained and under your supervision at all times, you can breathe a little easier. But what about dogs outside of the home that you or your child might come in contact with?

Knowing the common triggers that cause dog bites will empower you to avoid these situations. Dog bites are always preceded by behavior that a keen observer can use as a warning and then take steps to reduce the dog's stress or fear. The dogs ears are typically pinned back, the fur along their back may stand up and you may be able to see the whites of their eyes. Non-social "stand-offish" behavior such as freezing in response to a touch or look followed by direct eye contact back from the dog is another clear sign that he may bite.

Children should not approach, touch, or play with any dog that's sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy or bone or caring for puppies. Dogs are more likely to bite if they're startled, frightened, or caring for young. Take the time to educate your children on how to act around dogs, what to watch for and what to do if a dog attacks.

Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog, even if it's your family pet. Children are often bitten by a dog in their own household. Teach your child to ask permission before touching or playing with any dog.

If a child sees a dog off-leash outside, she should not approach the dog and should tell an adult immediately.

Remember, dog-bite prevention begins at home with your own dog by being a responsible pet parent.

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