There are over 4.5 million dog bites reported with adults and children annually and almost a million of these bites require a trip to the hospital.Â There are about 78 million dogs in the United States and over 315 million people so thatâ€™s almost one dog for every four people in the United States.
The issue becomes in our ability to better understand and communicate with our dogs and to make sure that both our children and our dogs are properly supervised.Â The core of the issues comes down to understanding body language. Many people believe that the bite just came out of the blue with no warning.Â In fact the dog is warning us but we often donâ€™t understand what theyâ€™re saying.Â Most dog bites occur due to our own inability to greet them properly.
These are some common signs of an anxious dog. The dog in the photo above is displaying quite a few signs that he is NOT in a comfortable situation (closed tight mouth, ears back, stiff body) – this is how dog bites begin!
- Lip licking or tongue flicking
- Turning their head or body away from something/someone
- Tight, stiff and rigid body
- Ears back, tail tucked, furrowed brow
- Shaking off (like theyâ€™ve just had a bath)
- Scratching/Itching (set off by a certain situation not an allergy issue)
- Slight or major cowering
- Hypervigilant (looking every which way â€“ concerned)
For a great handout to share with kids, click here Click Here
Here’s an excellent video for you to share with your children – it really helps you better understand what your dog’s telling you through their body language.Â Better understanding what they’re telling you can help you avoid a dog bite in the future.
Victoria Stillwell, positive dog trainer and host of televisionâ€™s Itâ€™s Me or the Dog, offers these great tips for preventing dog bites:
- Before getting a dog, seek advice from a veterinarian, vet techs or other knowledgeable pet care professionals.
- Make sure any dog acquired by a family with children is well-socialized, especially to children, as a young puppy (under 16 weeks) and into adolescence.
- Teach kids to stay out of a dogâ€™s personal space when eating, sleeping, injured or has puppies
- Donâ€™t startle or surprise any dog â€“ let the dog know when youâ€™re approaching
- Avoid hugging, kissing or any activity that puts your face in close proximity to the dogâ€™s face
- Supervise all interactions between dog and children and be sure that both adult and child know the body signs (above) that indicate fear or anxiety
- When signs of fear or anxiety are observed, stop interactions between the child and the dog.
- Provide dogs with a child-free zone in which to retreat â€“ such as a baby-gated room, kennel or crate
- Donâ€™t allow the children to mistreat the family dog, teach them to interact appropriately.
- Donâ€™t approach strange dogs with the ownerâ€™s permission
- Donâ€™tâ€™ approach loose dogs or ones tied out on long lines
- Donâ€™t reach through a fence to pet a dog
- Donâ€™t reach into a car window to pet a dog
- Do train your pet to obey basic behaviors such as sit, lie down and come when called by having clear expectations and rewarding the good behaviors with something the dog enjoys
- For dog households with children, teach the dog that good things happen when children are close by.