With school nearly out for the summer, children will have more time to interact with both friends and pets. With that in mind, it is important for parents that, if threatened beyond their comfort zones, all dogs will bite and inflict personal injuries, whether they are strays or family pets.
Documentation indicates that children are the majority of dog bite victims, more than half of which were bitten by a dog they knew (a family pet or one living in the neighborhood). According to animal behaviorist Dr. Sophia Yin, expecting a dog to tolerate any human interaction is wrong. Being aware of a dog’s likes and dislikes and level of tolerance is the responsibility of the caregiver.
Here are some tips to prevent dog bites:
- Spay or neuter your dog. Dogs that have not been spayed or neutered are three times more likely to attack than dogs than have been. Doing so will reduce a pet’s aggressive tendencies, decrease the potential for various cancers, and aid in alleviating pet overpopulation.
- Set appropriate limits on acceptable behavior with consistent, persistent training. Don’t expect a dog that has been chained outside for long periods of time to be well-behaved. Dogs are social beings and isolation will typically cause aggressive behavior.
- Create a comfortable haven for your dog to retreat to and feel safe. Dogs, much like humans, need their own space.
- Emphasize to family members that they should not disturb dogs that are sick, eating, sleeping, nursing puppies, or guarding territory or property. Also, aggressive games should not be allowed, even in fun.
- A mellow, well-behaved dog that suddenly snarls or snaps could be due to a medical problem. These problems could include arthritis or a painful ear or tooth infection. You should consult a veterinarian immediately if this is the case.
- Teach your children how to interact with animals. This includes how to play with animals, how to handle them, how to pick them up, and when to leave them alone. The importance of respect and kindness should be emphasized.
- NEVER allow a child to be around a dog without supervision.
- Emphasize to children that they should never approach a tied-up dog or reach through a fence or kennel to pet an animal.
- Make sure children always ask a dog’s caregiver for permission before petting a dog. Tell them that after getting permission, they should slowly approach from the side, speak softly, and turn their hand palm down and allow the dog to sniff it. The dog should be petted gently under the chin or on the chest, not on top of the head.
- Never play tug-of-war, or rough games which can create aggressive behavior with a dog.
- Children should never hug or place their face near a dog’s face. Some dogs may tolerate it, but few enjoy it.
- A dog should never be startled, teased, screamed at, or shouted at. If a dog is growling at you, it should be left alone.
- NEVER run from a dog. To avoid being chased by a dog, stand still and quiet and look away from it. If possible, place a bicycle or other object between you and the dog. If you are concerned that the dog will attack, curl into a ball and remain as still and quiet as possible. The dog will typically lose interest and leave.
Dog bites will never totally be eliminated, but having a common sense, well-planned, proactive approach can decrease the threat of attack.