The majority of canine companions deserve the reputation of “man’s best friend.” Yet, in the United States, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, more than 4.5 million dog bites occur annually, with approximately 60 percent of the victims being children. With an estimated population of 70 million dogs living in U.S. households, it’s not surprising that there are millions of people bitten each year. What may be surprising to some people is that the majority of these bites, if not all, are preventable. May 18-24 is National Dog Bite Prevention Week. This is a good time to review some tips to prevent yourself, or your children, from getting bit by a dog.
How to avoid getting bit by a dog.
Respect a dog’s personal space.
Never approach an unfamiliar dog, especially one who’s tied or confined behind a fence.
Always ask the dog owner’s permission first before you pet their dog.
Don’t pet a dog without letting him see you and sniff you first.
Don’t disturb a dog who’s sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy or caring for puppies.
Be aware that the majority of dog bite cases occur from the pet of family or friends.
Don’t assume that because you know a dog, it won’t bite you.
What to do when a strange dog approaches you.
Your instinct may be to scream and run, but experts say to “stand like a tree” when a strange dogs comes towards you. Just remain motionless and avoid eye contact. Once the dog loses interest and moves away, slowly back away until the dog is out of site. If you happen to be knocked to the ground, experts say to “be a log” by facing down, keeping your legs together and cover the back of your neck with closed fists. If the dog does attack, try to put anything you can between you and the dog – your jacket, purse, school bag, etc.
How to prevent your dog from biting.
You can’t guarantee that your dog will never bite, but there are certain things you can do to lessen the chances that your dog will bite.
Spay or neuter your dog. Spayed and neutered dogs are less aggressive and less likely to bite
Socialize your dog. You should introduce your dog to many people and situations as you can, especially when your dog is young. However, it’s never too late to socialize your dog, but remember to go slowly
Train your dog. Accompany your dog to training classes. Make sure the entire household participates in utilizing the training techniques
Teach appropriate behavior. Never allow your dog to chase people, even in fun. Seek professional help if your dog ever displays aggressive behavior.
Be safe. If you aren’t sure how your dog is going to react to a new situation, be cautious. You may want to leave him at home. If your dog overreacts to visitors, keep him locked up when company comes over. You can work with professionals to help your dog become accustomed to these situations.
What you should do if your dog bites someone.
Restrain your dog immediately. Remove your dog from the scene and confine him to a cage or carrier.
Check on the victim’s condition. Help the victim clean bite wounds with soap and water. Professional medical advice should be sought to evaluate bite wounds and the risk of rabies or other infections. Call 911 if a response by paramedics is required.
Provide important information to the victim including your name, address and information about your dog’s most recent rabies vaccination. If your dog does not have a current rabies vaccination, it may be necessary to quarantine your dog.
Comply with local ordinances regarding reporting of dog bites.
Consult your veterinarian for advice about dog behavior that will help prevent similar problems in the future.
What you should do if you are bitten.
If your own dog bites you, confine it immediately and call your veterinarian to check your dog’s vaccination records. You may also want to consult with your veterinarian about your dog’s aggressive action. Your veterinarian can examine your dog to make sure it is healthy, and can help you with information or training that may prevent more bites.
If someone else’s dog bit you, first seek medical treatment for your wound. Next, contact authorities and tell them everything you can about the dog: the owner’s name, if you know it; the color and size of the dog; where you encountered the dog; and if, where, and when you’ve seen it before. These details may help animal-control officers locate the dog. In addition, consider asking your physician if post-exposure rabies prophylaxis is necessary.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, children are at the greatest risk for dog bite-related injuries, especially those ages 5-9. Luckily, recent research shows that the rate of dog bite related injures among children seems to be decreasing. However, I would recommend sharing this column with your children in order to help them be prepared. Stay safe during National Dog Bite Prevention Week and throughout the entire year!
Lisa Acho Remorenko is executive director of Animal Adoption Solutions, www.animaladoptionsolutions.com