National Dog Bite Prevention Week

Super Smiley, blog dog, here with the news that May 17-23 is National Dog Bite Prevention Week. Why do we need a week like that?

There are 70 million dogs in the United States, and more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year with children being the most likely to be bitten and severely injured. Even the most trusted dog can bite in the right set of circumstances.

When I was in the shelter, a beautiful Great Dane was dropped off by her person. The man who left her was crying. His family dog had mauled his daughter. But when I saw the dog’s face, she had magic marker drawings all over it, around her eyes and on her nose. I wondered how many signs she had given the child asking her to stop drawing on her face with that magic marker that may have been burning her nose and poking her eyes before she said I have to defend myself. That made me so sad. I will never forget it.

Most dog bites can be prevented, so I give National Dog Bite Prevention Week four paws up! And to make it even better, State Farm Insurance has teamed up with world-renowned dog trainer Victoria Stilwell to “take a bite out of dog attacks.” State Farm is actively educating people in preventing dog bites, and they don’t ask the breed of the family’s dog when writing or renewing homeowner insurance.

According to Victoria, “the most effective way to prevent dog bites is not to ban certain breeds of dog, but to raise awareness of canine behavior through education, as well as encouraging responsible dog ownership.”

So let’s start right now with some basics in dog body language. A dog may bite for different reasons. Maybe he’s just had enough like the Great Dane. Maybe he’s a dominant, aggressive dog who thinks he’s protecting something. Or maybe he’s fearful and panicked. In any case, a bite is a bite! So here are my Top 10 Red Flags for Body Language.

Signs of an aggressive dog who might bite:

  1. Tense, forward leaning, braced, frozen body40 Bite Prevention 2
  2. Stiff upward angled tail that may be wagging briskly
  3. Fixed, focused, forward staring eyes and forward pricked ears
  4. Fur standing up on back creating “hackles.”
  5. Growling with bared teeth
  6. Low quiet growling with lips pursed forward covering the teeth

 Body language that might indicate a fearful dog that might bite

  1. Cowering trying to make himself appear small or invisible
  2. Wide eyes with the whites showing
  3. Backing away, or trying to get away
  4. Flicking tongue and yawning are stress signs

Simply by knowing what to look for and avoiding contact at that time can help so much. Thank you for looking at us closely and learning these signs so you can help keep both people and dogs safer.

Well said, Super Smiley! Good boy! It’s Megan here now with more Top 10 Tips on how to avoid dog bites:

  1. As we saw from the Great Dane story, never leave a child unattended with a dog unless the child and the dog are fully trained and educated. Even then, check on them regularly.
  2. Properly train your dog and know your dog’s temperament and tolerance levels. A Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) can help with this.
  3. Properly educate children and adults about dog behavior and body language and how to approach and interact with a dog. Having your children participate in the dog training session will help with this also.
  4. Respect the dog’s personal space.
  5. Never tease a dog, even if you think it’s just play and he likes it.
  6. Never entice a dog to “play growl.”
  7. Never play tug of war with your dog. This is a seemingly innocent traditional game with dogs, but it trains the dog to keep what is his and to fight you for it. You want a dog with a soft mouth, so when you reach for something in his mouth, he softens and lets it go rather than tensing and chomping down on it. Your fingers could easily get caught as in a mousetrap clamping shut.
  8. Never approach an unfamiliar dog, especially one behind a fence or in a car, or when they are eating, sleeping or caring for their puppies.
  9. Get the owners permission before reaching to touch a dog, and pet dogs you are just meeting on the shoulders or back and not on the head. Children should always do this.
  10. A wagging tail does not necessarily mean he is friendly or happy to see you.

40 Bite Prevention 3What if you are out and encounter a dog you think may attack?

  1. Don’t run away. This may trigger the dog’s prey drive and literally drive him to chase and bite you.
  2. Avoid eye contact.
  3. Try to remain relaxed.
  4. If you can, appear to ignore him.
  5. Remain motionless until he has lost interest or moved away.
  6. Once the dog has moved away, back away slowly, don’t run.
  7. If he attacks, don’t run, as he will chase you and try to take you down.
  8. Don’t scream.
  9. Try to “feed” him something like your jacket, purse, or anything that you can put between you and his mouth.
  10. If he knocks you down, curl up into a ball, interlock your fingers behind your neck and cover your ears with your arms to protect your neck, ears and face.

Plan ahead in setting up your dog and family for success.

  1. Avoid buying a dog from pet stores, classified ads or over the Internet. Most of these dogs come from puppy mills where they are not socialized properly and may be inbred, thus more prone to anxiety and imbalance.
  2. Work with a CPDT to properly train your dog.
  3. Adopt from a shelter with staff who can help you evaluate and pick the best dog for you. And consider taking a CPDT with you to evaluate your selection.

Dogs are becoming more and more accepted as a real part of our families. State Farm’s enthusiastic participation as an insurance company in training and educating is evidence of this. A dog in our lives is the norm. We are their leaders, so it’s up to us to learn their behaviors to keep us safe. And by doing so, we keep them safe – not only as individual dogs but in an even bigger way as discriminated against breeds.

Until Next Time,
Woof and Super Smiles from,
Super Smiley and Megan Blake, The Pet Lifestyle Coach®

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