Dogs are loyal and devoted. They’re adoring and adorable. They are famously known as our best friends. But when a dog bites us or someone else, it can seem like a betrayal of everything we understand about what our dogs are supposed to be like. The truth is, there are tons of reasons a dog may bite a human or another dog, and it doesn’t always mean the dog is bad. In fact, more often than not, the “human factor” may be the cause. This week, we are exploring dog bite prevention and how to care for a dog bite once it’s happened.
Some Dog Bite Stats and Facts
Guess what? Dog bites happen. A lot.
- In fact, a dog bite happens every 75 seconds, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
- The CDC says 4.5 million dog bites occur every year in the U.S. with varying severity.
- A surprising one out of every five bites becomes infected.
- And 71% of dog bites that result in the death of the person that received the bite occurred on the dog owner’s property.
Dog bites sound scary, but it turns out, the majority of dog bites are not the dog’s fault. Lack of proper dog-handling on the part of the owner is a big cause. And improper actions or behaviors on the part of the person who was on the receiving end of the bite is a common cause.
- In fact, only 15,000 to 16,000 bites out of 850,000 claims filed, end up with a decision on the side of the person that was bitten, resulting in a payout.
- That’s roughly 2% of all decisions. Meaning, the rest of the time the court or the insurance company sides with the dog and his or her owner. That’s pretty telling.
It’s also important to note the age groups most affected by dog bites.
- More than half of all dog bites in the U.S. happen to children, ages six to ten.
- In fact, 82% of dog bites are to children ages nine and younger.
Dog Bite Prevention for Dog Guardians
The best way to keep ourselves and our communities safe is to take the proper precautions.
- When adopting, it’s important that we shop for the right temperament and personality for our family. Some dogs are cautious. Some are nervous. Some like kids. And just like humans, some dogs are picky about the types of humans they hang out with.
- Dogs need security and safety. We should never leave our dogs alone with strangers, especially if we haven’t explored their ability to properly care for our pup. Always check references and remember that just because someone loves to play with dogs, doesn’t mean they are qualified to care for one.
- If we’ve decided to keep a best friend who is protective of their family and property, place signs in the windows and on fences to help make meter readers and guests aware. Remember, a whopping 71% of bites that resulted in death happened on the dog’s property.
- Educate visitors on how to interact or what to expect. For example, if Fido is anxious and needs to warm up to people, let guests know that Fido will approach them when ready and to leave him alone until then.
- Training is an important part of responsible pet parenting. We need to socialize them early. And it’s best to train them to respond to commands when off leash, even if we plan to always keep them on-leash. Get help from a professional trainer as needed and at least once to better understand our canine companion’s mind and how to communicate.
- Never leave a child and a dog together for any amount of unsupervised time. While supervising pup-kiddo playtime, make every moment a teaching moment. Don’t just watch. Help children understand how to recognize anxiousness. Teach them how to approach a dog, how to pet a dog and why poking and pulling of any kind are NOT OK. Teach and remind them often, because every dog is different and because repetition is the only true teacher.
- Learning to read our dog’s and their anxiety level not only helps to build a healthy relationship, but also means we’ll recognize the signs of discomfort around certain people or in certain situations.
- Preventing and correcting behavioral problems is key to dog bite prevention, too. Dogs often bite in self-defense or fear, and behavioral problems just add to the risk. We can enroll in classes with a professional trainer, talk to our vet, and even consult a behaviorist.
- If anxiety is an ongoing challenge, but manageable without medicine, we can try over-the-counter remedies, such as Vet Organics EcoBalance® Calming Extra-Strength Liquid for Dogs & Cats. It helps to reduce stress and anxiety without the expensive pharmaceutical overkill a vet may prescribe.
Dog bites can be surprising and scary, and a lot of people end up following a knee-jerk reaction to re-home a dog or even put the dog down as a solution. But a dog bite doesn’t necessarily mean our dog is bad. Before sending Fido packing, it’s better to assess the situation.
We can try understand the circumstances and what stressors may have been present. A vet or behaviorist may be able to help. Get training, if needed, to correct any fault on the part of Fido. And it’s best to keep in mind, we may never really get an answer to a dog bite incident, but in these cases, our companions need the benefit of the doubt. We can support our furry family with a solutions approach to dog bite incidents.
The third week of May is Dog Bite Prevention Week. While every day is a good day to be vigilant and watch for stressors, setting aside some time to understand dog bites and how to prevent them is a great way to celebrate our furry families in May. Tell us your happy dog bite prevention story by connecting with us on Instagram or Facebook.