Nationwide statistics underscore the need to raise awareness around the dangerous problem of dog bites, and to educate the public about what can be done in the way of prevention. National Dog Bite Prevention Week focuses on educating people about preventing dog bites.
According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs every year, with 880,000 requiring emergency medical treatment, and 15-20 people die from dog bites yearly. The American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery reports that more than 26,000 victims of dog bites in 2013 underwent reconstructive surgery.
While these numbers are both staggering and alarming, some of the most surprising facts may be that 61% of dog bites occur within pet owners’ homes, and 43% of all dog bites involve children being bitten by the family dog during everyday activity. As such, parents can take a large “bite” out of these high incidence rates simply by learning some basic guidelines that will help their children avoid getting bit by their own dogs.
For example, under no circumstances should a baby be left alone with a dog, and young children should never walk or feed the dog unsupervised. Parents should never allow a young child to discipline their dog, pull on the dog’s collar or play aggressive games with them. What parents should do is teach their dog to be respectful and respond to verbal commands.
TIPS FOR PARENTS:
- Never allow a child to approach or reach out to a strange dog, even if the owner says it is okay. NO REACHING OVER THE HEAD. Reaching over their head is intimidating. Dogs much prefer when pets come from underneath, such as a soft rub under the chin or on their shoulder.
- Teach your children DINOS – Dogs in Need of S Not all dogs like to be approached, hugged or even petted. Two feet of space can save your face.
KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF. Somewhere along the line the advice was given to present your hand to a dog so they can sniff it. For shy or fearful dogs, that outstretched hand can look like you are reaching for them, causing them to distrust you. They can smell you just fine with your hands at your side.
- Dogs who really love to be pet don’t keep it a secret. They come in very close, lean into you.
- Never leave a child or baby alone with a dog.
- When visiting friends or relatives who have a dog that you do not know, do not allow a child to play in the yard unsupervised. If that is not possible, ask the owners to put the dog away.
- Do not feed a dog directly from your hand so that it does not learn it is acceptable to take food from people.
- Do not allow a child to feed a dog unsupervised because some dogs can be very protective of their food.
- Never allow a dog to snatch food from a child. It not only teaches the dog bad manners, but it endangers the hand that feeds it.
- Do not allow children to pull on a dog’s collar to lead it outside the house because the dog could bite them. Instead, a dog should be taught to respond to a verbal command. If the dog does not respond to a verbal command given by a child, the parent should give command.
- Don’t think that smaller dogs are safer to approach than larger dogs – any breed of dog can bite.
- Children without adult supervision should not be allowed to walk a dog. A child could be dragged down or unwittingly into a fight with another dog.
- Children should always precede a dog through a door or gate.
TIPS FOR CHILDREN:
- Never pet a strange dog, even if its owner is present. Two feet of space can save your face.
- Never pet a dog in a car.
- Stay away from a dog while it is eating and sleeping.
- Stop your bike if being chased while riding.
- Never retrieve a ball from someone else’s yard.
- If visiting friends who have a dog that you don’t know, ask them to put their dog away, if you want to play.
- Stay away from a dog that is tied up.
- Never pull a dog’s tail or ears, dogs feel pain, too.
- Never tease a dog or make it angry.
- Stand totally still if a dog runs at you barking. Cover your face with your hands.
- If knocked to the ground by a dog, roll into a ball, cover your face with your arms and stay as still as you possibly can. Do not try to get up.
When you first meet a dog, DON’T BEND OVER THE DOG. It is much better to kneel down and turn your body slightly sideways to a dog. You would be amazed at how many dogs turn to mush when you offer them this polite greeting.
Don’t take it personally if a dog does not like you. The more you pursue a shy dog, the more it convinces them that you are scary. Back off, discontinue eye contact and give him a chance to get to know you on his terms. Letting the dog decide how and when to approach you can make all the difference. If he doesn’t come around, that’s okay. By giving him his space, you’ve just taught him that not all humans are scary, which benefits him much more in the long run. Sniffing is the dog’s way of getting more information about you. Let the dog sniff you and then see where he goes from there.
When To See A Doctor
If you or your child has been bitten, try and find out from the owner if the dog is up-to-date on his rabies shots or rabies treatment plus a tetanus shot may need to be given. If the dog causes a laceration, puncture or tear to the skin, or pain near the dog bite, it is best to see your doctor. Dog bites can often cause infections because bacteria can seep deep into your tissue. Exposure to a rabid animal does not always result in rabies. If treatment is initiated promptly following a rabies exposure, rabies can be prevented.
If your dog has a tendency to bite or is aggressive, contact your Bark Busters trainer. We can help you overcome this problem behavior and hopefully prevent injuries in the future.
Jeri Wagner is a canine behavioral therapist and master trainer. Jeri uses a natural training system leveraging the same communication methods – body language and voice control – that dogs follow as part of their instinctive pack mentality. Training takes place in the home where the problems generally occur. Jeri trains in western Montgomery County, northern Chester County and eastern Berks County. For more information, call 1-877-500 BARK (2275) or visit www.barkbusters.com.
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