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Preventing Dog Bites
By Kathy Schnizler

Every year 4.7 million people in the United States are reportedly bitten by dogs. Over half of these will be children under the age of 13. Children must learn a few basic rules so they can love dogs with passion and be safe.

  • Don't approach strange dogs, especially if they are tied or confined behind a fence.
  • Never go it alone. If you see a dog that needs help, go get an adult before approaching the dog.
  • Always ask the owner's permission before petting a dog. If the owner says it is okay, approach the dog slowly and let him sniff you first. Then gently pet him on his back or side.
  • Don't play rough with a dog or you may get bitten accidentally.
  • Never run away from a dog, his instinct will be to chase you. Back away slowly and quietly.
  • Dogs hate surprises, never bother a dog who is sleeping or try to sneak up on a dog.
  • Some dogs think they own everything and may protect it from anyone they think is a threat. You should never bother a dog who is eating, playing with a toy, or caring for puppies.
  • Always assume that a dog who doesn't know you sees you as an intruder or a threat.

If you are approached by a dog who you think might attack:

  • Never scream and run.
  • Stay still with your hands at your sides and avoid eye contact. The dog will most likely sniff you and walk away.
  • When the dog loses interest, slowly back away until he is out of sight.
  • If the dog attacks, "feed" him your jacket, backpack, purse, bicycle-anything that you can put between you and him.
  • If you fall, curl into a ball with your knees pulled up to your chest and your hands over your ears. Try to remain motionless, don't scream or roll around.

Dog owners can take steps to prevent their dogs from biting. The most important is to never let your dog roam loose and unsupervised. If your dog is on a leash, you can control the situation. Other steps owners can take are:

  • Spay or neuter your dog, it has been shown to make her/him less likely to bite.
  • Socialize your dog with different people and in different situations.
  • Take training classes with your dog. You will learn how to teach him appropriate behavior and it's also a great way to socialize your dog with other people and other dogs.
  • You should seek professional help the first time your dog exhibits aggressive behavior. Don't see it as a one time incident. Talk to your veterinarian, a professional dog trainer, or your local humane society.
  • Be responsible by getting your dog regular veterinary care and making him a member of your family.
  • Err on the safe side. If your dog seems uncomfortable in certain situations, such as crowded places, then avoid them when possible. Be cautious if you are taking your dog into a new situation.

If you know your dog is dangerous, do not give him to someone who is looking for a "mean" dog. These dogs are usually abused or left on a chain. Find someone who will be able to control the dog and who will prevent the dog from attacking anyone. If you must give up your dog because of behavior issues you can consult your veterinarian, local animal control agency, or your local humane society for options.