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Dog Bite Facts:

  • Each year, more than 4.5 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs.
  • Almost 1 in 5 people bitten by dogs require medical attention. 
  • Every year, more than 800,000 Americans receive medical attention for dog bites; at least half of them are children.
  • Children are, by far, the most common victims of dog bites and are far more likely to be severely injured.
  • Most dog bites affecting young children occur during everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs.
  • Senior citizens are the second most common dog bite victims.

There are many things you can do to avoid dog bites, ranging from properly training and socializing your pet to educating your children on how – or if – they should approach a dog. Information and education are the best solutions for this public health crisis.

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Dog bite facts provided by the American Veterinary Medical Association

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In Part II of “Why do dogs bite?” we discussed the importance of empathy when dealing with fear response in a dog. Since dogs tend to bite due to fear, the pet owner must become aware of the pet’s triggers and work with that information to promote confidence and trust, in order to lessen the likelihood of a biting incident.

Why do dogs bite? Part III
Look for signals that your dog is afraid. Speak to your pet in a calm, lowered voice. If possible, remove him from the area where the fear object is located. In some instances, especially at the veterinary office, this may not be possible. A certified professional dog trainer can work with you on techniques designed to prepare your pet for car trips, grooming appointments, and doctor visits.

What does a dog look like when it is afraid and anxious?
The signs may start out as subtle actions, which can be considered normal behaviors in another context. The subtle behaviors include:

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Lip licking
  • Yawning
  • Panting

If the source of fear or anxiety is not removed, the pet may progress to more noticeable signs of fear. These include:

  • Tail tucking
  • Flattening ears against the head
  • Salivating
  • Pacing
  • Staring
  • Eyes wide
  • Stiff posture
  • Fur standing up
  • Lunging
  • Barking
  • Growling

How can you prevent dog bites?
*At mealtime: do not approach a dog, or attempt to take away its food. Feed dogs in separate rooms or at separate times, if they do not get along.

*If a pet “steals” items (socks, toys, etc.), it may try to protect the item. Behaviorists recommend trading a treat for the stolen item.

*A pet that growls aggressively from beside its owner is often thought to be protecting the owner; behaviorists see the pet responding to a fear object and hoping the owner will protect it. Respect the dog’s fear and avoid sensitizing it further.

*Don’t believe the tail. A dog may wag its tail right up until the moment it bites you. Behaviorists recommend worrying more about the biting end than the wagging end of the dog.

Behaviorists’ tricks of the trade
In conjunction with training techniques, a behaviorist or trainer may recommend the use of synthetic pheromones or aromatherapy sprays to help calm an anxious pet. Other options include:

*Supplements designed to enhance a pet’s learning ability during training

*Positive reinforcements to reward desired behavior

*Clicker training

Training aids should be used as part of an overall training program designed to enhance a pet’s confidence and ability to respond to commands. Commands can be used to provide a distraction, pulling a pet’s attention away from the fear object in order to relax the pet and prevent a biting incident.

In the case of a fearful pet, training may be best accomplished in a private setting, rather than in a group. The trainer can tailor a program to meet the needs of the dog and its owner.

Est. 1973

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Some information for this article was gleaned from “Clue in on canine anxiety cues” by Dr. Valarie Tynes, DACVB and Heather Mohan-Gibbons, RVT, CPDT, ACAAB. Firstline magazine, February 2011.

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If it has teeth, it can bite.

If it has teeth, it can bite.

Every year, thousands of people seek emergency medical treatment for dog bites. How can you avoid being one of them? Follow these tips from State Farm Insurance and the American Veterinary Medical Association:

“Be cautious around strange dogs and treat your own pet with respect. Because children are the most frequent victims of dog bites, parents and caregivers should:

  • NEVER leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
  • Be on the lookout for potentially dangerous situations.
  • Start teaching young children — including toddlers — to be careful around pets.
     “Children must be taught NOT to approach strange dogs. Children should be taught to ask permission from a dog’s owner before petting the dog.”
     “Other tips that may prevent or stop a dog attack:
  • Don’t run past a dog. Dogs naturally love to chase and catch things. Don’t give them a reason to become excited or aggressive.
  • Never disturb a dog that’s caring for puppies, sleeping or eating.
  • If a dog approaches to sniff you — stay still. In most cases, the dog will go away when it determines you are not a threat.
  • If you’re threatened by a dog, remain calm. Don’t scream. If you say anything, speak calmly and firmly. Avoid eye contact. Try to stay still until the dog leaves, or back away slowly until the dog is out of sight. Don’t turn and run.
  • If you fall or are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your head and neck. Protect your face.”
     These tips and more are available in a brochure at our office.
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This article originally appeared on our blog on June 21, 2011.

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May 18 through 24 is National Dog Bite Prevention Week.

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What can you do to prevent dog bites in your home?

First, be aware that any dog, any breed, any age and any size can bite if provoked.

A dog will bite to protect itself or its “property” (such as food or toys, pups, even people.) The first bite may serve as a warning; if the warning is ignored, the dog may bite a second time or it may attack.

Consider the circumstances in which a dog may feel threatened and go into protective mode. Knowing this in advance, you will be better able to predict and prevent bites.

Dogs are more likely to bite when:

  • afraid or insecure
  • sick
  • in pain
  • eating
  • sleeping
  • playing with or guarding a toy
  • guarding a family member (human or puppy)
  • irritated or over-stimulated due to rough contact

Proper training (professional help may be called for) and socialization can help a dog feel secure about his role in the family and community, and can teach him how to behave around family and strangers. A dog in its owner’s arms or in a car may bite when approached, due to insecurity or guarding behavior.

Veterinary medical intervention is necessary when pain or illness is suspected to be the root cause of aggression. Sudden-onset aggression in dogs may be a result of pain stemming from an undiagnosed condition. Proper disease treatment and/ or pain-management can improve a pet’s demeanor and return him to being a happy family member.

Respect the dog. Family members — especially children — should be taught not to interrupt a pet that is eating, sleeping, or guarding something. Children should also be taught the proper way to hold a pet and not to yank, squeeze, pull, or hit a pet. A pet that feels threatened may turn to bite without taking time to consider its target.

Learn to read your pet’s body language.
A pet that approaches you with confidence (walks tall, tail up and wagging or down and relaxed, ears forward, jaw relaxed, tongue out, a happy trotting gait) is showing signs that it desires contact.

A pet that is anxious can move into fear mode if its source of anxiety remains present.
Watch for these early warning signs of canine anxiety:

  • attempt to remove itself from source of stimulus
  • avoiding eye contact
  • frequently licking its lips
  • laying the ears back on its head
  • lowering its head
  • panting
  • pacing
  • repeated yawning
  • salivating
  • tucking its tail

Unless the pet or its source of anxiety is removed, the situation can quickly escalate.
Watch for these signs of fear, pain, or aggression:

  • ears pinned back
  • fur bristled 
  • growling, snarling, barking 
  • jaw tensed
  • low “stalking”posture
  • stiff halting gait 
  • tail rapidly swatting side to side
  • teeth bared 
  • tongue pulled in

These dogs are warning you: STAY AWAY!

Not mentioned above is the case of dogs biting during rough play. Dogs are pack animals and they will treat their family members as part of their pack. A trainer can help you establish yourself as leader of the pack.

A dog that does not have a clear understanding of who is in charge in the household may step up to fill the void, or it may react in fear. A dominant dog may try to run herd on its family members the way it would in a dog pack: by using its teeth to get a point across. This is unacceptable in a household.

Establish leadership in the family and discourage rough play. If a dog “wins” at playtime, she may mistakenly believe that she is in charge. Even when that is not the case, remember that a dog does not necessarily understand when “play biting” is acceptable and when it is not. If play biting becomes a favorite pastime, everyone will become her favorite chew toy!

We have listed many of the typical instances in which a dog may bite in the home, but this is not an exhaustive list. Can you think of other reasons a dog may bite a family member or even another pet? Share your experiences with us in the comments section.

On Thursday, we will discuss dog bites and Stranger Danger.

For additional information, visit our clinic to receive a free brochure titled “Don’t worry, they won’t bite.” Or Contact us and we will mail a brochure to you.

 

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Did you know?

  • Each year, more than 4.5 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs.
  • Almost 1 in 5 people bitten by dogs require medical attention. 
  • Every year, more than 800,000 Americans receive medical attention for dog bites; at least half of them are children.
  • Children are, by far, the most common victims of dog bites and are far more likely to be severely injured.
  • Most dog bites affecting young children occur during everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs.
  • Senior citizens are the second most common dog bite victims. ¹
Any dog, any age, any breed, can bite.

Any dog, any age, any breed, can bite.

Every year, thousands of people seek emergency medical treatment for dog bites. How can you avoid being one of them? Follow these tips from State Farm Insurance and the American Veterinary Medical Association:

Be cautious around strange dogs and treat your own pet with respect. Because children are the most frequent victims of dog bites, parents and caregivers should:

  • NEVER leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
  • Be on the lookout for potentially dangerous situations.
  • Start teaching young children — including toddlers — to be careful around pets.
Children must be taught NOT to approach strange dogs. Children should be taught to ask permission from a dog’s owner before petting the dog.
Other tips that may prevent or stop a dog attack:
  • Don’t run past a dog. Dogs naturally love to chase and catch things. Don’t give them a reason to become excited or aggressive.
  • Never disturb a dog that’s caring for puppies, sleeping or eating.
  • If a dog approaches to sniff you — stay still. In most cases, the dog will go away when it determines you are not a threat.
  • If you’re threatened by a dog, remain calm. Don’t scream. If you say anything, speak calmly and firmly. Avoid eye contact. Try to stay still until the dog leaves, or back away slowly until the dog is out of sight. Don’t turn and run.
  • If you fall or are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your head and neck. Protect your face.
     These tips and more are available in a brochure at our office.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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