How To Prevent Dog Bites

Did you know that according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 4.5 million people are bit by dogs each year? Additionally, dog bites account for one-third of all homeowners' liability insurance claims costing around $570 million per year!  With over 70 million dogs living in the US (and growing!), it's becoming increasingly more important for people to know how to prevent dog bites. Here are some tips and tricks to help.

Reducing Risk Factors

One of the biggest risk factors is not being educated on bite prevention. This starts with the dog owners, as responsible dog ownership is crucial in reducing bites. Some of the ways that pet owners can reduce these occurrences include:

1) Adopt from a reputable shelter. It's very important to understand the dog's background. Adopting from a reputable shelter will be key to obtaining accurate information. Did they grow up in a healthy environment? Do they have a history of good behavior? Have they shown signs of aggression before? Getting a clear picture of the dog you're adopting will provide you the information needed to help reduce the risk of bites.

2) Walk your dog on a leash. This ensures that your dog will be under your control at all times. Even though your dog may be friendly, you can never forecast their behavior when they're around other unknown dogs, adults and children.

3) Spay or neuter your dog as soon as possible. Healthy pups can do this as early as 8 weeks young. Hormones play a big role in natural instincts such as marking, dominance and aggression. Spaying and neutering helps your dog control these behavioral instincts and ultimately makes them less likely to bite.

4) Socialize your dog! Under-socialized dogs tend to get uncomfortable and frightened more easily. When a dog feels tense, it is a common natural reaction to show aggression or bite. Letting them socialize with other dogs helps them learn how to behave in a more friendly and calm manner. 

5) Supervise dogs when around children. A sizable portion of dog bites each year occurs on children. Keeping an extra eye out and remaining cautious can help with avoiding unfortunate events from happening. Educating children on dog behavior and how to respectfully treat a dog is also important to prevention.

Knowing the signs

Adults and children that aren't dog owners can also help prevent dog bites from occurring. Recognizing the signs of when a dog is afraid, anxious or aggressive is a great start. Some of the indicators are:

1) When a dog attempts to make themselves appear bigger. This is a tell tale sign of aggression. You may see them arch their posture, start showing their teeth, growling, having a stiff walk, lifting their tail over their back or between their legs, and having raised hackles. If you see these signs of aggression, do not try to run away or past the dog, but rather back away slowly. Also, do not stare into the dog's eyes, as they may interpret this as provocative.

2) A frightened and anxious dog may try to make themselves smaller. You may see them lower their head close to the ground, flatten their ears, lick their lips repetitively, growl, and move slowly as if they are trying to slip away from a threat. If they are exhibiting any of these signs, do not approach the dog. Make sure to give them plenty of their own space and some time to settle down.

Not all dogs bite, but when they do, it can be dangerous matter and in some cases even deadly. By taking these precautions, educating yourself and others on what indications to look for, you'll be well prepared to prevent bites before they occur.

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Nelson Rith