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How Do I Prevent Dog Bites?
While it would be great to assume that all dogs are trained equally. In a perfect world, anyone who adopts a dog treats it with kindness, trains and exercises it daily. These alone can make the difference between a dog that is aggressive and a submissive one – even a dog. According to a recent survey, there are approximately 75 million dogs in the United States. Dog bites are a common and normal childhood fear and in the media dog bites are often portrayed as comical (we all remember Peter Sellers’ famous line “Does your dog bite?” from the Pink Panther movies) or associated with fights dogs or law enforcement. But what is the reality about dog bites? How common are they and how serious are they potentially? And what should be done to prevent them?
Several years ago, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) released some interesting statistics suggesting that dogs bite about 2 percent of the US population, which is roughly just over 4 million people, each year. Of these bites, the CDC has estimated that 1 in 6 bites require medical attention. According to a 2008 US Department of Health survey, the number of dog bites resulting in hospitalization has increased, and the majority of people bitten were children under five or seniors over 65. And according to the US Postal Service, more than 2,500 of the nation’s mail carriers are bitten each year. So what does this mean for you? It means you have a 1 in 50 chance of being bitten by Rocky, Shadow or even Sandi.
How can you tell if a dog is likely to bite? Are there ways to predict dog bites? According to research and statistics gathered, there are several situations in which dog bites are much more likely to occur. While of course this does not mean that every chained dog will bite, or that all Chows (or other breeds identified as more likely to bite) are dangerous, being aware of these statistical associations can help keep you or your children very safer.
• Alone and at home: be careful with a dog on its own lawn/territory. Statistically, the largest number of attacks and the most serious attacks occur when a dog is in its yard without an owner present.
• Statistically race makes a difference. Pit bulls, Rottweilers, Akitas and Chows have been documented to be more likely to bite. Pit bulls account for most of the documented fatal dog attacks.
• Herd mentality is a real phenomenon. The more dogs involved, the more dangerous the situation can become. Things can get out of hand quickly.
• Although in the past, everyone used to leash their dogs, studies have shown that dogs that are chained, tied, or leashed have an increased chance of biting than dogs that are not restrained in this way.
• Male dogs, especially those that have not been neutered, have been statistically proven to be several times more aggressive and dangerous than their female counterparts. But females are strangely territorial, so don’t reject an angry female.
• New child with block syndrome: A new dog that is new to the area is more likely to bite in the first two months. Likewise, a person who is new to the home, family, or area is at greater risk of being bitten in the first two months as well.
• Injury or illness: A dog in pain or illness may be at greater risk of biting.
Dog bite prevention
As statistics show, more than half of people bitten by dogs are children and the elderly. Educating children about dogs – how to play with their own dog, how to approach strange dogs, about dogs in general – can help reduce the incidence of dog bites.
The American Humane Society suggests that the following tips be taught to children, either by their parents or their school, or both, to increase awareness and promote dog safety. This is as much for the children’s sake as for the dogs’ sake:
• Ask the owner of the dog before petting it, it is dangerous to do so without permission. If you do not know the dog or if the owner is not around, avoid.
• Stay away from an injured animal. Tell an adult about the animal if you think it needs help.
• A dog enjoying a meal, a treat or a toy, as well as a sleeping dog or a dog with her puppies – must be left alone. While dogs shouldn’t be aggressive about food and you should be able to take away a dog’s food, many owners don’t know how to instill this in their dogs.
• Learn to pet a dog nicely. Use pleasant and positive touch. Be nice and tell your friends to be nice too.
• Dogs perceive running and yelping as signals to hunt. Don’t run away unless you’re ready to be chased, and maybe knocked down.
• Learn about dogs and dog behavior. Dogs use their mouths to grasp and hold because they don’t have hands. Not every grab is a bite, but dogs, especially puppies, need to learn not to grab or chew people.
A positive relationship with a family dog can set a child up for a lifelong love of dogs. Unfortunately, a dog bite during childhood can leave emotional and physical scars for life. Knowledge about dog behavior and especially about biting makes all the difference: be aware and be safe!
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