April is Dog Bite Prevention Month

redondo beach veterinarianOur veterinarians know that educating yourself about preventing dog bites can help ensure that your dog never bites anyone – and that no one in your family is ever bitten. Read this article to learn what you can do to prevent dog bites from occurring.

Veterinarian’s Dog Bite Facts:

National Dog Bite Prevention Week® is the second week of April . Every year, dogs bite more than 4.5 million people in the United States – and approximately 800,000 of those who are bitten by dogs require medical attention.

More than half of the people who are bitten by dogs are children – while senior citizens are the second most common dog bite victims.

According to statistics compiled by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, more than 25,000 reconstructive surgeries are performed every year to repair injuries caused by dog bites.

Not only are children the most common victims of dog bites, they are also far more likely to be severely injured if bitten by a dog. It may come as a surprise that most young children who are bitten by dogs were interacting with familiar dogs – and were engaging in normal, everyday activities at home or at a friend’s or neighbor’s house.

Educating your children and yourself about when and how to approach or handle a dog – along with properly training and socializing your own dogs – can prevent most dog bites.

Veterinarian Tips for Preventing Dog Bites

There are many things you can do to avoid dog bites. Be especially watchful and aware when your child interacts with any dog.

If your dog shows signs of snapping, biting or nibbling it is important to stop this behavior before it escalates. What may appear cute or harmless in a puppy can become dangerous in an adult dog. Even the bite of small dog can do serious damage. And even the gentlest of dogs can resort to biting “instinctively” if they are harmed, threatened, startled or overly stimulated.

Take your puppy or dog to a humane, reward-based training class. We recommend “puppy kindergarten” classes as early as eight weeks (right after their first set of vaccinations). Early training will help you consistently and effectively teach your dog good behavior.

Spay or neuter your dog as soon as possible – because spayed and neutered dogs are generally less likely to bite. A healthy pup can be spayed or neutered as early as eight weeks of age.

Avoid unknown dogs. If you see a dog that is loose and unsupervised, avoid the dog and leave the area. Alert animal control. Tell children to tell an adult if they see an unleashed or unsupervised dog, who can consider alerting animal control.

When you or your child sees a dog with an owner, always ask the owner for permission to pet their dog. Children and adults should never pet a dog without asking first – even if belongs to someone you know, or if it is a dog that seemed friendly before. After receiving the owner’s permission to approach the dog, do so slowly, allowing the dog to sniff your hand first.

Understanding a dog’s body language can go a long way toward avoiding being bitten. Dogs often give signs  to indicate that they are feeling anxious, afraid, threatened or aggressive.Sometimes an aggressive dog may try to make themselves look bigger: ears may be up and forward; the fur on the back and tail may stand on end or puff out; the tail may be straight up; and they may also bare her teeth, growl, lunge or bark. Never continue approaching a dog showing this body language.

Teaching Children to Avoid Dog Bites

Some easy tips that you can use to help kids understand the importance of respecting dogs and avoiding bites:

  • Teach children never to tease dogs by taking their toys, food or treats. Tell children to leave the dog alone when it’s asleep or eating.
  • Also teach your children to never pull a dog’s ears or tail, climb on, or try to ride dogs. Tell them they need to be kind, and to never even pretend to tease, hit or kick.
  • Focus on gentle behavior, and remind your child that dogs have likes and dislikes just like people do! Explain that the dog has to want to play with them – and if the dog leaves, he no longer wants to play.
  • With smaller dogs, children might try to drag the pet around. This can be injurious to the dog and also lead to a biting situation.
  • Discourage children from trying to dress up the dog! This can also be uncomfortable for a pet, and lead to biting in self-defense.
  • Teach children that when a dog goes to their bed or crate, not to bother them. Reinforce the concept that the bed or crate is the dog’s special space – and they should be left alone.

What to Do if You Are Attacked by a Dog

Confidently and quietly walk away if an aggressive dog confronts you. Teach your children to do the same.

If you are ever attacked by a dog, stand still, and then take a defensive position. It helps to tell children to  “be a tree” by standing still and quietly – with their hands low & clasped in front of them – while keeping their head down looking at their feet.

Avoid escalating an aggressive dog situation by NOT yelling, running, hitting, or making sudden movements. Teach your children to cover their head and neck with their arms and curl into a ball, if a dog ever attacks them.

Responsible Pet Ownership Prevents Dog Bites

Keeping your dog in a happy, safe, comfortable and healthy environment – with early and ongoing socialization – helps ensure that your dog does not become a “biter”. Never allow them to roam free, or to be in the presence of children or strangers unattended. Learning to read a dog’s body language – and educating your children about the “do’s and don’ts” of interacting with dogs – will go a long way toward keeping everyone safe!

Our veterinarians offer caring, compassionate, affordable veterinary services to cats, dogs and other pets in the entire South Bay area including: Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Gardena, El Segundo, Hawthorne, Torrance and Palos Verdes.

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