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It is estimated that 4.5 million dog bites happen each year in the United States alone. That is a lot of bites. That is a lot of preventable bites too. By doing the things mentioned below we can get that number to drop dramatically. Here are 5ways to prevent dog bites.
1. Kids and Dogs
According to the American Humane Association, 82% of dog bites treated in the emergency room were to children ages 15 and under. That is a huge chunk of the overall percentage. But how do we lower that percentage? Well, teaching parents to teach their children how to coexist with a dog is the first thing. Rules need to be set to respect the dog (or any animal). Not riding, lying on, poking, hitting, pinching and punching are a good start. Dogs are living, breathing animals that will only tolerate so much. This means that if they keep getting poked there is a good chance they will stick up for themselves.
The easiest way to prevent bites from happening to children is supervision. Never leave a child unsupervised with a dog. Not even for a moment. Also, supervision doesn’t mean watching your child interact with your dog through your camera phone. What I mean by this is I have seen more pictures online than I’d like to admit that show kids doing inappropriate things like I mentioned above to dogs while the parents get a photo or video of it. Don’t be that parent. Don’t put your child or dog in a poor position. Don’t have the mentality that the dog should, “Just have to deal with it.” Don’t have the mentality that it won’t happen to you or your child. I bet a lot of the parents that had this happen didn’t think it would happen to them and now wish they could go back in the past to prevent it.
2. Seeing What Your Dog is Telling You
Dogs communicate with their bodies. They are always telling us how they feel about what’s going on. Watching them and understanding what they are saying will prevent a lot of bites. Here are some indications that a dog may be uncomfortable:
-Panting (When dog isn’t overheated)
-Wide Eyes (Whale eye)
-Looking away (Avoiding)
-Holding head low
These are just some indications that a dog is uncomfortable. If a dog is showing these signs, and then more stressful things are added, that is when the dog is pushed to where it feels it has no other option. If you see that your dog is uncomfortable you need to either add more distance between him and the thing that makes him uncomfortable, or add things that he enjoys while he is around the thing that makes him uncomfortable. Or, in some cases you will need to add more distance, and add things that he enjoys.
3. Punishing a Growl
A common mistake I see being made often is yelling at a dog when it growls. I understand why people do this. They don’t want their dog to growl at someone. The idea behind it is if you punish your dog when it growls, it will no longer growl. But realistically if your dog is growling, it means that it is uncomfortable. This means we need to address the reason why he is actually uncomfortable.
Firstly, NEVER punish your dog if it is growling. A growl is a warning sign. If you punish the dog for giving a warning sign there is a very good chance that your dog will start biting without warning first. Without a warning it is very hard to prevent dog bites. If your dog is nervous about something you can start to give him things he enjoys while that thing he is uncomfortable about is present. With repetition of this your dog can start to view the scary thing as a predictor for things he loves which will then make him enjoy the presence of that thing. You can also add some distance in between your dog and the thing that is making him uncomfortable which will result in him being a bit more comfortable.
4. A Dog and His Food Bowl
A big myth that is still circulating today is that you should walk up to your dog while it is eating and stick your hands in his bowl to get him use to hands being in there/the presence of humans near his bowl. While it isn’t a horrible thing to be able to take your dog’s food bowl away, there is a better way to go about it.
Firstly, resource guarding the food bowl can cause bites. This is when the dog thinks that you are going to take his food away, resulting in him protecting it when you get near. If a dog is in the process of guarding its food and you do stick your hand near or in the bowl you are most likely going to get bitten. The best thing you can do is toss him things he enjoys while he is eating. I typically take a few kibbles out of the bowl before I give it to the dog. While he is eating I will walk up at a safe distance and toss those kibbles to him. With repetition of this the dog will see the human approaching his food bowl as a good thing instead of a bad thing resulting in no need to guard. (If your dog does have a resource-guarding problem it isn’t a bad idea to contact a certified trainer in your area.)
5. Dogs Behind Fences
They say there are two reasons to have a fence. One is to keep dogs in, and the other is to keep people out. Reaching through or over a fence to pet a dog isn’t the best idea. A lot of bites occur from people doing this. Dogs that spend a lot of time in a yard behind a fence typically get pretty animated when someone or something comes into sight. This usually happens because their behavior is reinforced. When something comes into sight, they typically start barking. They usually keep barking until the thing is out of sight. In their mind the barking is what made the thing go away. If the barking made the thing go away, and that is what they wanted to happen, the behavior has been reinforced. Whenever a behavior is reinforced it is likely to repeat and the behavior is likely to become stronger. Since the dog is thinking this way, if a person approaches and the barking that has worked every time in the past isn’t working, he is very likely to try another means to get the person to go away. This is when the bite occurs.
To prevent this from happening, do not leave your dog outside unsupervised. Also, never reach in or over a fence to pet a dog. If you have a dog that lives near you that is behind a fence and constantly barking at you, it isn’t a bad idea to toss him some things that he enjoys so he will start to look at your presence as a good thing instead of a bad thing.
Kevin is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT.org) and is a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator through the American Kennel Club. He currently resides in Ohio with his dog, V, a six-year-old Shepherd/Lab mix, where he operates All Dogs Go To Kevin, LLC, specializing in helping build positive relationships between humans and their canine companions using clear communication, not pain and fear. For more training tips and tricks, and to meet his amazing dog, V, follow him on Facebook by clicking here.