Thursday, May 20, 2010

I almost missed National Dog Bite Prevention Week

In addition to my article on, I want to pass on some of my own tips.

1. At least once a year I get a phone call from a parent whose dog has bitten their child asking what can be done. If you have a dog, no matter the age or breed, and a young child you need to be extra attentive when both are interacting. Simply being in the same room is not enough. You MUST pay attention and correct whoever is doing something inappropriate. And if either is "not getting it", separate them physically. He/she will quickly learn how to behave around the other.

2. Who started the wrongheaded idea of sticking your hand out to a strange dog to let him smell you? "Here, doggie take this to bite on". I mean, seriously. By the time you get close enough to Fido to greet, he's already had a good whiff of you. Now you're just adding a confusing jesture by shoving your hand in his face. Just stand there and once you both feel comfortable, gently stroke the side of his face, back or under the neck. While we're at it, teach your kids to NEVER pet a new dog on top of his head. Talk about threatening gestures!

3. Do not dismiss or discipline a dog's warning signs. He will growl before he snarls, before he snaps and eventually resorts to biting. Any one of the pre-bite warnings require your intervention. This does NOT mean scolding him or telling him "no". You will only teach him not to warn you before acting. Instead, remove your dog from the situation and reward him once he is calm. This will strengthen your communication and human-canine bond.

4. Some dogs are more oral than others and can be "nippy". Well, one person's nip can constitute another's bite. Don't take chances if you have a mouthy dog. Muzzles are a necessity for these dogs. Protect others and yourself.

The first step in preventing dog bites, is being an educated, responsible owner. The second is to spread the word. Let's all do our part to lessen the number of next year's dog bites.

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