According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States. Children are the most likely to be injured and are most often bitten in the face. The majority of bites occur during routine activities and interactions with familiar dogs. Many dog bites are preventable and there are various ways to avoid unsafe interactions with dogs. It’s important to know that any dog can bite, their individual behavior and history will be the most determining factor in whether or not a dog will bite in varying circumstances. Below we’ll share some ways to prevent a dog bite from occurring.
Responsible Dog Ownership
The best way to prevent a dog bite from occurring is through responsible ownership. Because dogs primarily communicate through body language, it’s important to understand what they’re trying to say and how they say it. You find a few great infographics that explain signs of stress in dog body language here:
- Early Stress Signals in Dogs
- Facial Expressions of Stress
- Severe Stress Signs in Dogs
- Physiological Signs of Stress
Seek help from a behavior professional should you have any concerns about your dog’s behavior. Always supervise interactions between your dog and other people, especially children.
Educate Your Family and Friends
Once you’ve learned about dog body language, share what you’ve learned. Make sure the people who will be sharing space or interacting with your dog understand what to watch for and how to respond appropriately. The more they understand about body language, the more aware they will be of your dog’s comfort level and what they’re trying to communicate. Their understanding of body language will help keep them safe.
Advocate for Your Dog
If you notice that your dog is uncomfortable in a situation or during an interaction, support them first and foremost. However tempting it might be to explain what is happening to other people in that moment, your primary focus should be your dog because things can happen in the blink of an eye. The safest way to do this is by moving them away from the situation they are in or the people that are attempting to engage with them. You may have to be very direct about your dog’s need for space.
In a situation where you’re unsure of how your dog will react or feel about an unfamiliar person or a child, keep your dog on a leash or behind a barrier until you see that they are relaxed or feeling comfortable. You can feed your dog treats to help them build positive associations and feel more comfortable over time. Don’t forget to monitor their body language for changes in their comfort level. Being relaxed behind a barrier does not necessarily mean a desire to interact with people. If you have concerns, contact a behavior professional for support. Ask a staff member at your local Central Bark for more information on bite prevention.
*Below are two infographics on how Kids Should and Should Not Interact with Dogs. These rules should apply to all children and adults who are interacting with your dog. If you have children, go over these examples with them. If there are children in your family, send these examples to their parents so they can go over them with their own children.