National Dog Bite Prevention Week

Tips for Approaching Dogs and Keeping Safe

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 4.7 million dog bites occur annually, with approximately 60 percent of the victims being children. Several years ago, Barney, former President George W. Bush’s dog, bit a reporter. If you saw the video, you can tell that Barney’s posture was tense and the reporter approached very quickly and from above. This maneuver is frightening to a smaller dog. I used to give classroom presentations to elementary schools teaching children how to greet dogs; but as was proven here, even some adults need educating.

How to Greet a Dog.

Before you reach out to pet a dog, you should always ask permission from the owner. Once you have permission, it’s best to squat down to the dog’s level, and then slowly bring your hand toward the dog from the side, not above. Keep your fist closed and let the dog sniff your hand first. Then pet the dog’s sides or back gently. The entire time you want to remain quiet and refrain from making any sudden movements.

What to Do When a Strange Dog Approaches You.

I used to tell children to “stand like a tree” when a strange dogs comes toward you. You don’t want to scream and run. Just remain motionless and avoid eye contact. Once the dog loses interest and moves away, slowly back away until the dog is out of sight. If you happen to be knocked to the ground, “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.

Ÿ Spay or neuter your dog. Spayed and neutered dogs are less aggressive and less likely to bite

Ÿ Socialize your dog. You should introduce your dog to as 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

Ÿ Train your dog. Accompany your dog to training classes. Make sure the entire household participates in utilizing the training techniques

Ÿ Teach appropriate behavior. Never allow your dog to chase people, even in fun. Seek professional help if your dog ever displays aggressive behavior.

Ÿ 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.

Ÿ Restrain your dog immediately. Remove your dog from the scene, and confine him to a cage or carrier.

Ÿ 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 9-1-1 if a response by paramedics is required.

Ÿ 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.

Ÿ Comply with area ordinances regarding reporting of dog bites.

Ÿ 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 bites 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 Centers 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. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Stay safe during National Dog Bite Prevention Week and throughout the entire year!

Adoptable Pet of the Week

Hazel is a beautiful lionhead bunny who is already spayed and ready to go home. She has a very long coat, which will need frequent brushing. If you are interested in seeing Hazel, hop on over to Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter (BUNS)!


BUNS is a volunteer organization that cares for abandoned rabbits that works to find bunnies permanent homes and educate the public on caring for a companion rabbit. BUNS is located at the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter, 5473 Overpass Road. For more information, call the county shelter at (805) 681-5285 or BUNS at (805) 683-0521, and leave a message for someone to call you back, or visit


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