Tips to Prevent Unnecessary and Unfortunate Dog Bites
PetSmart Debbie McKnight/Accredited PetSmart Trainer
All dogs can bite. Even if you think, “Not my dog!” it could happen.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year 800,000 Americans seek medical attention for dog bites. Of those, more than half are children. There are campaigns like National Dog Bite Prevention Week, which occurs the third week of May, that help raise awareness and educate the public, but Pet Parents and those who may have contact with a dog must be diligent year-round.
Here are some tips to help prevent unneccessary and unfortunate bites:
- Dogs do not like hugging and kissing. Have you seen those pictures of the children hugging the dogs with the caption that reads “Who looks happier?” I’ll give you a hint … it’s not the dog.
- Do not put your face near the dog’s face. Nobody likes someone right in their face. Dogs are no different.
- Teach your children - and remind yourself - not to bother a busy dog. If the dog is busy (eating, sleeping, in the crate, playing with a toy, etc.) do not startle him. Just like some people, many dogs do not take kindly to being startled or interrupted. Call him to you or let him know you’re approaching.
- Do not put your dog in a situation he can’t handle. You are responsible for your dog’s behavior. Forcing your dog to tolerate things he is unprepared for is stressful. Stress leads to unpredictable behavior.
- Take a positive reinforcement training class. Teaching your dog what is expected of him, without using aversives or harsh corrections, will lead to a calm, confident dog.
- Understand your dog has bad days just like everybody else. There are times when your dog will have less tolerance than usual. Perhaps he’s hot, tired, in pain, or just getting older. Be patient with him.
- Not all dogs like to be petted. Hard to believe? Remember how old Aunt Edna used to pinch your cheeks every Christmas and croon, “My how you’ve grown?" Nobody ever liked that! Yet, it is how many dogs view petting. Your own dog may tolerate you doing offensive things like hugging and kissing; however, he may not want a stranger touching him. Some days he may not even want you to touch him!
- When a dog comes up to smell you, that is not an invitation to pet him. He is gaining information about you, so wait to see if he hangs around for petting or not.
- Be aware of the dog’s body language. Dogs give many warnings before they even begin to growl or snarl. Tense muscles, lip licking, yawning, turning the head away, moving away, freezing and being able to see the whites of the eyes are just some of the signs that a dog is NOT comfortable.
- Approach with caution or not at all! Educating yourself and your children on the dog’s warning signs will drastically reduce the chances of a bite.
Debbie McKnight is an accredited PetSmart trainer in Hurst, Texas
For information on PetSmart's Accredited Training, please visit PetSmart's Training web site