Fight The Bite!

Mopsy was a 4-pound Yorkshire Terrier and one of the sweetest (although not the brightest) dogs I’ve ever known.

“Don’t worry, she won’t bite,” said my mother, as the UPS man arrived at our home. And at that very moment, Mopsy latched onto his pant leg.

Let’s be clear: any dog can (and will) bite, given the right (or rather, wrong) circumstances. That could be anything from fear, aggression, the need to express dominance, or simply being startled.  And whether it’s a 4-pound Yorkie, a 30-pound Beagle, or a 125-pound German Shepherd, biting puts both the owner and the victim at risk.

My husband has been a utility repairman for years. His job involves everything from meter reading to fixing nearly any appliance you might have in your home. And your home is your dog’s “space.”

With that in mind, it’s not surprising that most dogs take great offense at the arrival of letter carriers, parcel deliveries and service technicians. That individual is intruding on what our pets rightly perceive as “their” territory, and your dog may exhibit any number of behaviors. Extremely shy dogs may run and hide under a bed or in another room.  Most dogs will provide a verbal warning for you and the “intruder.” And some dogs may become overly aggressive and even try to nip or bite.

“Not MY dog!” was certainly my mother’s thought. You might think the same about your Pomeranian, Puli, Pug or Poodle.

It’s a serious issue. The Insurance Information Institute reports that, in 2011 a total of 16,292 claims were made on homeowners’ insurance policies for dog bites, an increase of 3.3 percent over 2010. The value of those insurance claims was more than $478 million, up 16.1 percent over 2010.

To narrow the field even more, the United States Postal Service reports that in 2011, 5,577 postal workers were attacked.  The USPS goes so far as to rank the “Top 25” cities each year, based on number of attacks reported. Last year’s dubious No. 1 ranking went to Los Angeles, with 83 attacks on USPS employees, followed by San Diego (68), Houston (47), Cleveland (44) and Dallas (41) rounding out the “top five.”

A few things to keep in mind: If you have asked for home service repair or are expecting a delivery, that repair or delivery person is, in essence, a guest in your home. They deserve a safe atmosphere in which to work.

Should your darling dog (or cat) attack, you could be held liable. While laws vary by state, the Insurance Information Institute notes the incident could fall under “negligence” for failing to properly control your animal, and you and your insurance carrier could be responsible for medical bills, lost wages, “pain and suffering” and other costs.

What’s the answer?

  • Work to properly socialize your animal. Obedience training can greatly assist in helping your four-legged friend feel more comfortable around strangers. Lessons are often available at local pet retail stores, or check for private lessons with a dog trainer or behavioral specialist.
  • Consider spaying or neutering your pet. According to the Humane Society of the United States, unaltered dogs are three times more likely to be involved in a biting incident.
  • Keep your pets completely out of the way. Lock your pets in another room, put them outdoors in the backyard, or keep them on a leash by your side.
  • A whole line of scientifically proven pheromone behavior products from Sentry are another option to fight the bite. The calming collars (for both dogs and cats) provide a soothing influence during a stressful situation, such as a repair person in your home. And if your dog’s barking, jumping or growling (“Just doing my job, mom!”) won’t cease, consider the Sentry “Stop That!” spray, which can help immediately deter inappropriate behavior and help you redirect the focus of your calmer dog.

No one is happy when the washer goes on the fritz, or the air conditioner sputters out during the heat of summer. Keep your cool, keep your dog calm, and make the job easier for your technician, repair person or delivery person by keeping your dog (or cat) under control.

-Photo Credit: from flickr by Lucy Boynon


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