In honor of Dog Bite Prevention Week in April, we’d like to call attention to the serious nature of dog bites in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year. Of those, nearly 1 in 5 will need professional medical attention.  

If you’ve ever been bitten by a dog, you know how painful and scary it can be. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to avoid a dog bite (in fact, most incidents are entirely preventable). Let’s take a moment to review some tips to avoid a dangerous situation.

Why Dogs Bite

Any dog – big or small, young or old – can bite. Even the cuddliest pup can bite if provoked, and it doesn’t have anything to do with breed. Instead, it depends on the dog’s individual history, temperament, and behavior.

Dogs bite for a variety of reasons, including:  

  • The dog feels threatened.
  • The dog is protecting something that’s valuable to them, like puppies, toys, or food.
  • The dog is defending their territory.
  • The dog is afraid or startled.
  • The dog is playing and nips out of excitement.
  • The dog is in pain, is sick or injured, or they’re recovering from a surgery or trauma.

How to Prevent a Dog Bite

Children are most likely to find themselves on the receiving end of a dog bite, followed by senior citizens. Consider the following tips to prevent an unfortunate situation:  

  • Provide proper socialization. Socializing your dog to a variety of situations can help prevent a dog bite. As a puppy, introducing them to new people, places, and experiences can help them feel more secure and less afraid as they grow older.
  • Practice responsible dog ownership. Keeping your dog on a leash while in public is a good way to control your pet in new situations. Responsible dog ownership also includes choosing the right dog for your family, getting your pet spayed/neutered, and taking the time to train and exercise your dog on a regular basis.
  • Educate yourself. Research the facts and inform your children about dog behavior and how to approach a dog.
  • Be aware of body language. Learning about and paying attention to dog body language can go a long way to preventing a dog bite. Oftentimes, dogs will provide plenty of clues long before a bite actually occurs.

It’s also important to learn how to avoid situations that might put you at risk. Don’t approach a dog in the following scenarios:

  • The dog appears to be in pain, is recovering from an illness, or is sick or injured.
  • The dog appears to be hiding or avoiding interaction.
  • The dog is not with their owner.
  • The dog is on the other side of a barrier (never reach over or through a fence to pet a dog).
  • The dog is resting with their puppies or seems very anxious about others being around the puppies.
  • The dog is sleeping or eating.
  • The dog is playing with a toy.
  • The dog is growling or barking.
  • The owner of the dog does not give you permission to pet the dog.

Just like people, dogs rely on body gestures, vocalization, and facial expressions to convey how they’re feeling. While it’s sometimes difficult to read the signs correctly, you can often pick up clues as to how a dog may react or their intentions.

Learning to avoid a dog bite is important for everyone, especially children. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact the team at Rutland Veterinary Clinic and Surgical Center. We’re always here to help!