18 May 11

Preventing dog bites ...

by Nancy E. Hassel, LIPetPlace.com

Preventing Dog Bites

As someone who has been working with dogs on nearly a daily basis since I was a kid, preventing a dog bite seems to come naturally to me, and by applying common sense to every situation with a dog in order not to get bit, has helped tremendously.  But not everyone is aware of dog body language, behavior, how to act around dogs, etc.  Recently a good friend of mine was bitten pretty badly on her hand by a Jack Russell Terrier, that flew off his property and was attacking, literally going for her Old English Bulldog’s throat.  Luckily for the Jack her bulldog didn’t react to the situation, (seriously that could have been his lunch), but my friend, the bulldog’s owner who was walking her leashed dog in a local LI neighborhood said she had to keep pushing the Jack away and got bit in the process. You can’t blame her wanting to protect her dog from being hurt in the process. This occurs more often that you would think – we only hear about attacks in the news when it involves a certain media sensationalized breed – but all and every type, size and breed of dog can bite.

This week being National Dog Bite Prevention Awareness Week, May 15 -21st, here are some tips to help the everyday dog owner:

  • Ask if you can pet the dog.  This seems like such an obvious thing to do – but not everyone asks.  How do you know the dog being walked towards you is friendly?
  • Teach your kids to ask you first if they can pet a dog – then have them ask the dog owner before they run up and pet the cute puppy coming along.  Dogs can get nervous (especially if they are not used to kids running up to them), and kids often times can be over zealous. A good rule of thumb, as the dog owner, is to instruct the kids approaching, ‘one at a time’ as they come up and pet the dog.  Also instruct them to let the dog sniff them first.  As the owner you need to watch your dogs body language – if he is backing away from the kids, trying to hide behind you, putting his hair up (hackles between should blades), or worse curls his lips or growls?  If this happens tell the children, ok thanks for petting him we are going to be on our way, and keep on walking.  Not all dogs like kids!
  • Don’t go up to strange dogs.  If you are not an expert, a dog trainer, and if you see a loose dog and want to help it, call your local animal control or animal shelter so they can send a professional out to help the dog.
  • Some dogs are food and toy guarders – meaning the may growl or lunge at you if you are near them while they are eating or playing with a toy.  This behavior can be corrected with a good dog trainer, (and that the owners actually listen to the trainers instructions!), but if you have a dog like this – the dog is warning you with that growl.  Take it seriously.  But seek out a trainer – many times an owner has helped the dog develop this bad habit unknowingly – it’s no reason to give up on a dog.
  • Teach your children and their friends not to tease or bully your dog.  They would not want to be teased, and either does a dog.  (A friend of mine years ago teased my friends dog relentlessly for years, not in a mean way, just what could be annoying to a dog and finally one day while we were all rollerblading with the dog – he was taunting her and I guess she finally had enough and chased him and bit him right in the butt! While we could not stop laughing at the time because frankly he may have deserved it, he was bleeding and she ripped his shorts.  If that was a child it would be a lot worse, needless to say he learned his lesson!)

  • A tired dog is a good dog. Many people don’t take their dogs for actual walks here on Long Island relying on just using their yard for the dog.  Dogs bond with us, learn better, get mental and much need physical exercise while on a walk.  Much more then just playing with them in your yard – try to start walking your dog more on a regular basis. You will see a huge difference.
  • Be sure to keep your dog up-to-date on their vaccinations (rabies is required by NYS law), license your dog and have regular check ups by their vet.
  • Take a dog education class.  Here on Long Island the Town of Islip offers this class for Free to anyone that wants to attend.  Dog Bite Prevention is one of the many topics covered.  More information can be found here on upcoming classes.

There are more tips from the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website to help you and your family avoid dog bites.  Dogs are such a wonderful part of our lives, but learning how to understand them better, interact your dog (or your neighbors dog) can make a big difference in avoiding being bit and having fun with our dogs.  Dogs are not children – while we think of them as family members of course, they are still animals first, with teeth!

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