Just as flowers and people are coming out and about, enjoying the nice weather, so are more and more dogs. People are taking their K9 companions for frequent walks, and out to public events like the farmer’s markets. It seems like a good time to offer a few reminders about dog bites, and more importantly, how to avoid them.
According to the AVMA, over 4.5 million people a year are bitten by dogs in the U.S. and more than 800,000 of them require medical attention. Children are the most common victims with more severe injuries. Dogs will bite if provoked, scared, or feel a need to be defensive (to protect their territory or their human family). So what should we do?
One resource available to us all is simply watching the dogs’ body language. Often dogs will bark or put their ears back to show they are concerned or worried. They might tuck their tails if they are frightened. By the time they growl or snarl, they are fervently expressing their desire to be avoided and therefore left alone--immediately.
To help children avoid dog bites, it’s wise to remind them: to leave dogs alone when they are sleeping or eating; never pull a dog’s tail or take their toys or treats; and to avoid agitating a pup by yelling, running, or hitting.
This advice truly applies to people of all ages.
Some breeds are generally more “friendly” than others, but the dog’s upbringing is the most essential factor. Like us all, they are creatures of their environments.
If you decide to approach a pup, first ask the owner for permission to pet the dog. Once given permission to introduce yourself, slowly offer the back of your hand to the pup as a form of handshake. If the dog sniffs, the pup may very well be your new friend. If the dog doesn’t seem interested, it might be best to smile and give the dog his or her own space or “safety zone.”