Posts Tagged ‘family safety’

Remember the East Coast earthquake of August 23, 2011? At Little Creek Veterinary Clinic, our building shook, as if a train were rumbling past our front door.

(Meme photo removed)

Well, it could happen again — toppling more than just lawn chairs.

That’s why it’s good to know what to do if the earth starts moving beneath your feet. Join in the 2017 Great Shakeout on October 19th and learn how (and why) to Drop, Cover, and Hold On!

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May 18th through 24th is National Dog Bite Prevention Week.


On Tuesday, we discussed how to prevent dog bites at home, including how to read canine body language. Avoiding dog bites at home is only half the equation, though. Understanding your own dog’s moods and idiosyncrasies is one thing — but what of the unfamiliar dog?

These tips may prevent or stop an attack by other dogs:

  • Never leave children unsupervised around dogs. Children are the most frequent victims of dog bites.
  • Teach your children not to approach strange dogs. 
  • Children should be taught to ask permission from the dog’s owner before petting it. Some dogs do not like being petted, so remind kids that sometimes the answer will be “NO.” 
  • Don’t run past a dog. Dogs love to chase and catch things. Don’t give them a reason to become excited or aggressive.
  • If a dog approaches to sniff you — stay still. In most cases, the dog will go away when it determines you’re not a threat.
  • If you’re threatened by a dog, remain calm. (We know — this can be tough!) Speak calmly and firmly, if you must talk. Avoid eye contact with the dog. Stay still until he leaves, or back away slowly until he 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, and protect your face.
  • Dogs that travel in pairs or packs can become dangerous when they spot a target. If you see stray* dogs traveling together in your neighborhood, stay indoors and contact your local animal control officers.

*In this context, “stray” refers to dogs that are homeless or have escaped their yard.

If you are bitten:

  • Seek medical care.
  • Contact authorities and tell them everything you can about the dog, including its owner’s name, color/breed/size of the dog, and where you saw the dog (if animal control officers need to locate it.)
  • You have the right to know the dog’s Rabies vaccination status. The owner will be asked to provide this information to animal control officers who will then inform you of the pet’s status. Depending on this information, you may need to receive Rabies post-exposure vaccines as a precaution.

Information for this article was adapted from “Don’t worry, they won’t bite,” a brochure provided by the AVMA, Insurance Information Institute, and State Farm, and is available at our office.

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May 18 through 24 is National Dog Bite Prevention Week.


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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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.

When he’s this close, can you tell if he’s smiling or snarling? Luckily, this guy was happy to meet me. Photo by Jennifer Miele

     I love big dogs.  We have some real doozies come through here:  French, Italian, and English mastiffs, gargantuan Great Danes, supersized German Shepherds, daunting Dobermans, Rottweilers built like a brick house, even a Saint Bernard or two. Large dogs are huggable, squeezable drool machines, and with the proper training they are great company. But any dog, any size, any breed can bite. While a small pooch can deliver a nasty injury, large dogs hold a greater potential for harm. For that reason, I believe owners of large dogs have a serious responsibility to train and control their pets at all times, but especially in public.
     Even though I’ve worked in a veterinary clinic for a couple of decades, I have no secret weapon for fending off aggressive dogs. I have had my share of scares while hiking through state parks and other public places where dog owners keep their pets on a long leash or no leash at all.  Admittedly, it is quite difficult to keep cool when approached by a hostile animal. The worst part is how the owners seem to move in slow-motion to stop the dog, as if they are absolutely certain their pet won’t bite. But who wants to be on the receiving end of their incorrect assumption?
     Luckily, I was never bitten in those encounters, although the dogs certainly got close enough. My usual response is to turn sideways to the approaching animal (rather than face it head-on), arms at my sides, and staring straight ahead as if ignoring it. I’ve managed to hold this stance even while the dog tries to intimidate me with its growling, snarling, and bared teeth.
     Eventually, the pet owner catches up and calls off Fluffy, the raging Golden Retriever (scarier even than my encounter with a couple of roving German Shepherds), and all is well. Except I can never seem to look those people in the eye, because if I do, it might end with me growling, snarling, and baring my teeth at them. That’s how I feel about folks who insist on walking large dogs off-leash in public parks.  ~~  Jen
What’s your opinion on walking dogs off-leash in public areas? Do you love it? Hate it? Don’t care? Have you ever had a scary encounter with a dog? Tell me about it in the comments section.

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