iStock_000016985167_MediumHave you or a loved one ever experienced or witnessed a dog bite?

It’s likely you have. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year. Unfortunately, many of these incidents could have been prevented through proper training and socialization of the dog, beginning in puppyhood. Also by educating individuals on ways to mitigate a bite-occurrence from happening in the first place.

Of course, the first important step in creating a safe environment for your pet pooch and those around him or her is through basic and ethical obedience training. By providing training to your new puppy, you help reduce the risk of bites or aggressive or otherwise problematic behaviors down the road. And, since the majority of dog bites occur at home with a known canine, bite prevention education should begin at home and include all members of the family.

Here are three common mistakes pet owners make before a dog bite occurs:

Lack of Supervision  – In most dog bite cases involving a child, the responsible adult chose to leave the child unattended with the family dog or a neighbor’s dog. It’s imperative to keep in mind that a dog bite can happen in those “few minutes” you step away to answer your cell or get something from the kitchen. Don’t leave a young child unattended with a canine for any length of time, especially when the child is under 5 years of age. 
Breed Bias

Breed Bias – Many people assume that the breeds deemed most likely to bite, or those that cause greater injury, are the dogs to be wary of. In fact, all dogs have innate predatory instincts, no matter how small, timid, or otherwise well-behaved. Assume, particularly when exposing small children to a pet dog, that the dog is capable of nipping or biting if he or she is startled, feeling threatened (tail pulling, for example) or defensive.

Dogs Perceive Things Differently –Humans may assume that overt forms of provocation, such as pulling on ears, manhandling, or wrestling with the family dog to be bite-risk behaviors (and they are). What we  often overlook though are more subtle mistakes. Dogs can  become defensive when guarding what they view as resources. These resources can include food, toys, or even you.

Other common situations that incite attack include coming face-to-face with a dog, starling him or her while asleep, or maintaining eye contact with a dog who is fearful or aggressive.

It’s also important to remember that animals in pain often bite. If your otherwise kind and mellow dog suddenly becomes aggressive for no apparent reason, it may be a sign that he or she is in pain and needs medical attention.

If You’re Under Threat of Attack

  • Pay attention to the animal’s body language – signs of possible aggression include: stiff body, tense tail, furrowed brow, ears pulled back, and intense gaze
  • Resist the urge to run
  • Remain still and avoid eye contact
  • Slowly back away, maintaining awareness of the dog’s location
  • If attacked, put a jacket, bag, or purse between your body and the dog and curl into a ball, protecting your head and face

If you are experiencing behavioral issues with your pet, which could include aggression, destructive chewing, frequent accidents, phobias, or anxieties, you may wish to schedule an appointment with our staff Veterinary Behavior Specialist, Theresa DePorter, DVM, MRCVS.

Dr. DePorter’s gentle, reassuring approach to behavior modification will help you and your family address your pet’s behavior problems. This will strengthen the bond between family members and your four-legged friend. Our Behavioral Medicine department focuses on a multifaceted treatment plan that may include medication, training, education, and socialization. For a consultation, please call us today.