This Week is National Dogbite Prevention Week.

During the third week in May, the U.S. Postal Service, the American Veterinary Medical Assoc. (AMVA), other organizations will be calling attention to one of the nation’s most commonly reported public health problems: dog bites.

Man and woman’s best friend bites more than 4.7 million people a year, and key experts believe that public education can help prevent these bites. Each year, 800,000 Americans seek medical attention for dog bites; half of these are children. Of those injured, 386,000 require treatment in an emergency department and about a dozen die. The rate of dog bite-related injuries is highest for children ages 5 to 9 years, and the rate decreases as children age. Almost two thirds of injuries among children ages four years and younger are to the head or neck region. Injury rates in children are significantly higher for boys than for girls.

Watch the Slide show for Tips and Warning Signs!

Speak Dog – Dogbite Tips and Prevention

Why do dogs bite and how do they warn us?

There are several possible reasons why a dog may bite a child:

  • The dog is protecting a possession, food or water dish or puppies.
  • The dog is protecting a resting place.
  • The dog is protecting its owner or the owner’s property.
  • The dog considers itself dominant over the child and the child has done something the dog considers to be insubordinate (e.g., hugging the dog, moving into the dog’s space, moving without permission from the dog, leaning or stepping over the dog).
  • The dog is frightened and the child has threatened it in some way (e.g., hugging the dog, rapid approach, leaning over or stepping over the dog).
  • The dog is old and grumpy and having a bad day and has no patience for the actions of a child.
  • The dog is injured.
  • The child has hurt or startled it by stepping on it, poking it or pulling its fur, tail or ears.
  • The dog has not learned bite inhibition and bites hard by accident when the child offers food or a toy to the dog.
  • The child and dog are engaging in rough play and the dog gets overly excited.
  • The dog views the child as a prey item because the child is running and/or screaming near the dog or riding a bicycle or otherwise moving past the dog.

There are usually warning signs before a bite occurs, but these can be very subtle and may be missed by many people. A dog may appear to tolerate being repeatedly mauled by a child and one day bites, surprising everyone.

Signs that you should take very seriously that indicate that the dog is saying “I have been very patient with this child, but I am nearing the end of my patience”, include:

  • The dog gets up and moves away from the child.
  • The dog turns his head away from the child.
  • The dog looks at you with a pleading expression.
  • You can see the “whites” of the dogs eyes, in a half moon shape.
  • The dog yawns while the child approaches or is interacting with him.
  • The dog licks his chops while the child approaches or is interacting with him.
  • The dog suddenly starts scratching or licking himself.

Here are some tips for parents and dog owners to help keep kids safe:
The 3 Most Important Things to Teach Your Kids

  • Dogs Don’t Like Hugs and Kisses – Teach your kids not to hug or kiss a dog on the face. Hugging the family dog or face-to-face contact are common causes of bites to the face. Instead, teach kids to scratch the dog on the chest or the side of the neck.
  • Be a Tree if a Strange Dog Approaches – Teach kids to stand still, like a tree. Trees are boring and the dog will eventually go away. This works for strange dogs and anytime the family dog gets too frisky or becomes aggressive.
  • Never Tease a Dog – and never disturb a dog that’s sleeping, eating or protecting something.

The 2 Most Important Things Parents Can Do

  • Supervise – Don’t assume your dog is good with kids. If a toddler must interact with your dog, you should have your hands on the dog too. Even if your dog is great with kids and has never bitten – why take a chance?
  • Train the dog – Take your dog to obedience classes where positive-reinforcement is used. Never pin, shake, choke, hold the dog down or roll the dog over to teach it a lesson. Dogs treated this way are likely to turn their aggression on weaker family members. Involve older children in training the family dog while supervising. Don’t allow children to punish the dog. Condition the dog to enjoy the presence and actions of children using positive experiences.

The 3 Most Important Things Dog Owners can do

  • Spay or Neuter Your Dog – Neutered pets are calmer, healthier and less likely to be aggressive. Neutering prevents unwanted dogs that may end up in shelters or in less than ideal conditions where they may grow up to be poorly socialized or aggressive.
  • Condition Your Dog for the World –Give your puppy lots of new positive experiences. Train using positive methods i.e. clicker training.
  • Supervise Your Dog – Supervise your dog at all times around children. Do not allow children to hug and kiss the dog. If visiting children are bothering your dog, put the dog away or send the children home.
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