Did you know the week of May 20th through May 26th has been designated as National Dog Bite Prevention Week? According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), 4.7 million people in the US are bitten by dogs every year. Children, especially those between 5 and 9 years of age, are the most common victims of dog bites. Senior citizens are the second most common victims of dog bites. What can you do to prevent your own dog from biting someone, or from getting bitten by a dog yourself?
Since children are the most common victim of dog bites, children should be educated about safety around dogs. If you have young children, teach them not to approach an unfamiliar dog, and to ask permission from the dog owner before petting the dog. Rather than running from a dog, children should learn to remain motionless when approached by a strange dog; running from a dog will trigger the dog’s natural tendency to chase. Children should be taught not to disturb a dog that is eating, sleeping, or chewing on a dog toy.
It is also important to prevent your own dog from biting someone. Remember that spaying or neutering your dog often reduces aggression in dogs. Be sure to properly socialize any dog you adopt, and spend time training your dog to obey. Don’t allow your dog to bite or “mouth” you during play. Most dogs bite when they are fearful or feel threatened, so exposing them to a variety of people and situations at a young age will help your dog develop confidence. Regularly exercise your dog, and keep your dog on a leash in public places. If your dog exhibits aggressive behavior, seek help from a dog trainer and/or your veterinarian. Be sure your dog is current on his rabies vaccination.
What should you do if you are bitten by a dog? The CDC reports that one in five dog bites results in an injury requiring medical attention. If you feel you are about to be bitten, try to put an object, such as your jacket, purse, or backpack between you and the dog and use that object to fend off the dog. If you are bitten, immediately wash the bite with soap and water, and then contact your physician for advice. Ask the dog owner for proof that the dog has been vaccinated for rabies. You should also report a dog bite to your local animal control authority.
With a little knowledge, you can be avoid becoming the victim of a dog bite and ensure your own dog doesn’t bite someone else.