Dog Bite Prevention
Dog bites, though common, can be avoided with a cursory knowledge of canine behavior, and common-sense preventive measures. The most important step to take in order to avoid dog bites is to learn how to recognize the signs of aggressive behavior which could potentially lead to a dog attack and bite injuries or even death. Paying attention to a dog's body language is the most effective way to tell whether a dog is about to show aggressive behavior.
Aggressive dogs (there are some dog breeds which are more aggressive than others), like other animals, may try to show physical superiority by puffing up their fur or otherwise making themselves look bigger than they actually are. Some of the most common ways of doing this is to raise the ears, and have a rigidly upturned tail. An intense gaze without breaking eye-contact is another strong sign that a dog may be getting ready to attack or behave in an aggressive manner. Of course, barking or growling are the most common auditory signals that such an act may be imminent.
It is not only aggressive dogs that attack--dogs which are anxious or feel threatened can also become dangerous. Unlike an aggressive stance, anxious body language puts the dog in a cowering position, perhaps crouching and keeping her body close to the ground. In contrast with aggression, the ears may be flattened back, and she may avoid eye contact to an extreme. Submissive behavior like rolling on the back and exposing her underbelly may seem unthreatening but can quickly turn into an attack if the dog feels some type of danger is imminent.
There is no one clear signal that means an attack is about to happen, so keeping a close eye on a dog and assessing the situation closely is important for picking up the signals within the context of the environment.
Children should be taught early on about how to avoid potentially aggressive dogs. Even though it is the parents' responsibility to keep a watchful eye on children, teaching kids about dogs is a crucial step in avoiding a catastrophic attack.
Children should know not to approach any dog (even a family dog) that is eating, sleeping, with its young, playing with a toy, or otherwise engaged in a solitary activity. Any time a dog is jarred or feels unsafe and threatened (even in a minor way) there is the potential for an attack or defensive bite.
Similarly, children should not try to pet or approach a dog that is barking or growling, even if this behavior looks playful.
Unfamiliar dogs, and ones which are confined or tied up should be avoided completely, unless the owner of the dog gives explicit permission to do so, and even then, the dog should be approached with care, and with a calm and measured manner. Even though strange dogs should be avoided, if a child is faced with an off-leash dog, he should resist running away or making a commotion. By standing still, and not making any noise the dog will eventually move on.
Another important technique to learn is to curl up into a ball and hold the back of the neck with interlocked fingers in case the child is knocked to the ground by a dog. This posture will help protect the child from highly dangerous bites, and will most likely cause the dog to lose interest and move on.
If You Are a Dog Owner
Dog owners can also take steps to help reduce the chances of a dog attack.
- Adopt from a well-managed adoption facility, and be mindful of behavioral problems during the dog selection process.
- Spaying or neutering a dog can help reduce the likelihood of aggressive behavior.
- The more a dog is socialized and exposed to a variety of interactive situations with people and other animals, the less likely it is to feel threatened and act in an aggressive manner when a new scenario presents itself.
- If you are unable to properly train your dog, it is important to seek the help and guidance of a professional trainer early on, even if you are adopting an older/mature dog.
- Always supervise the introduction of new people to do the dog, especially children, and err on the side of caution.
Millions of dog bites happen each year, and working together we can help reduce and hopefully eliminate this potentially deadly problem.