Any Dog Can Bite
Even the sweetest, cutest dog can bite if provoked. To reduce the number of injuries from dog bites, dog owners should practice responsible dog ownership. Adults and children should be educated about bite prevention.
Most dog-bite victims are actually bitten by their own dog or one they know. In addition, the number of recorded dog-bite injuries is higher in children than in adults. But there are many ways to help avoid potential dog bites.
Dogs give signs to indicate that they are feeling aggressive, threatened, or scared. Understanding dog body language is a good way to avoid being bitten.
An aggressive dog will try to make himself look bigger. Subtle signs you may notice include a stiff stance, tense lips/mouth, weight shifted forward, hackles raised, and a raised tail. An aggressive dog may even bare teeth, growl, lunge and bark. Do not continue to approach a dog that is showing aggressive body language as that may provoke a bite.
An anxious or threatened dog may try to make himself look smaller and assume a defensive, passive position. You might see a tucked tail, ears flattened back, crouched posture, yawning, and avoidance of eye contact. A defensive dog may even roll onto his back or try to slowly move away from you. If the dog feels cornered and thinks he has no other alternative, he may growl or even bite.
The best way to avoid dog bites is to be educated about dog body language and to teach children how and when to approach dogs.
- Do not approach an unfamiliar dog without asking permission from the dog's owner first. If it is okay to approach, let the dog sniff your closed hand and if he still appears comfortable, you can pet the dog's shoulder or chest. Take care not to pet the dog on the top of the head as this can be intimidating for the dog.
- Do not leave children alone with a dog.
- Do not reach through or over a fence to pet a dog.
- Do not approach or pet a dog who is sleeping, eating, caring for puppies, or chewing a bone or toy.
- Teach your children that, if a dog approaches them, they should not try to outrun the dog and should remain calm. They should avoid eye contact and stand very still. The dog will most likely lose interest and then they can slowly walk away.
- If a dog knocks you or your child to the ground, curl into a ball and remain still.
- If a dog does try to bite, "feed" the dog your jacket, bag, or anything that the dog will grab onto in order to put space between you and the dog.
Pet Parent Tips
There are many ways to reduce the risk of your own dog biting someone.
- Whether you adopt a young puppy or an adult dog, socialize your dog! Well-socialized dogs feel more at ease around people and other animals. Make sure you understand your dog's body language so you can remove him from new situations if he feels threatened or anxious. To help socialize your dog, expose him to a variety of people, places, and animals. Let your dog progress at his own pace, and do not force him to face something he is fearful of.
- Be a responsible pet owner. Obey leash laws. Make sure your dog is vaccinated and licensed. If you have a fenced yard, make sure the gates are secure. Walk and exercise your dog regularly to provide mental stimulation and promote overall health.
- Train your dog by taking him to a humane, reward-based training class. Learning basic obedience can be incorporated into fun activities that build trust and loyalty between pets and people.
- Carefully select your pet. Adopt from a well-managed shelter or buy from a reputable breeder. Do not get a dog or puppy on an impulse.
- Don't wait for a serious bite to happen. If your dog shows any aggressive behavior at all, consult a certified animal behaviorist, veterinarian, or certified dog trainer.