Last week was National Dog Bite Prevention Week – dog bites are considered to be a public health problem that is easily prevented. According to the CDC, “4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, and one in five dog bites results in injuries that require medical attention.” Yikes!
SFVS animal behaviorist Sophia Yin, DVM, recently spoke with PEOPLE Pets about this issue, answering such questions as “When a dog bite happens, who’s usually to blame: the person or the dog?” and “What advice do you have for behaving around unfamiliar dogs?”
Do you have tips for preventing dog bites?
Set rules and boundaries, especially with children. The dog should have personal space, like a safe spot to be away from the kids. Have rules: If the dog is laying down resting, don’t bug him, but if you call him and he comes, you can play. That way you’re not pushing him to do something he doesn’t want to do.
Have a carrier or kennel the dog likes to rest in, and make a rule that you can’t bug the dog when he’s in his crate. Don’t go in with him, and don’t be outside making funny faces at the dog. And don’t bother the dog when he’s sleeping, chewing on a bone or eating his meal.
When kids do the things they love to do – like scream, run around, wrestle or play rough with a dog – they turn themselves into a human squeaky toy. The dog learns it’s fun to get out of control with them, even nip them like they would with their toys. This behavior teaches the dog to be overly excited, and allows him to play rough and in an unsafe manner. That’s not okay. Arousal and aggression are on the same continuum – if the dog gets too excited he could bite out of excitement.
Every time you’re playing with the dog and you’re getting him excited, you have to recognize if he has an “off switch,” meaning he’ll calm down on his own if you tell him in a normal voice to sit down and be still. If he doesn’t, it’s probably not safe to get him too worked up, and maybe he shouldn’t be playing that way, because the behavior will only lead to rough-housing and, eventually, a potential dog bite.
Check out the full article – Ouch! Dog-Bite Prevention Tips to Sink Your Teeth Into – for some more helpful tips.
Also, the CDC has a podcast where you can listen and learn about steps to prevent dog bites. (4:05 seconds)