By Helen Broadley for FidoActive
Every year more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs across the country; one in five require medical attention and sadly more than half the victims of dog bites are children. The most alarming fact is that bites are often from dogs they are familiar with, or have even known and loved for years as part of the family. This just emphasizes the need to increase awareness and ensure we educate our children, friends and family to make them smart and safe around our canine companions.
Some bites are simply tragic accidents but the majority are normally a consequence of a particular situation, circumstance or environment and therefore can be avoided if we learn to understand our dogs better.
As responsible dog owners, we need to ensure our dogs are well socialized with both people (and other dogs) through positive, force-free education.
Dogs are undoubtedly man’s best friend and not many dog lovers can resist petting a pooch BUT there are certain times where this is NOT a good idea:
- If they are chewing a bone or eating
- When they are playing with a toy – do not try to try to take it away from them
- When they are sleeping.
- If they are ill, injured or in pain
- Do not try to touch the puppies of a dog, if she is resting with them or is anxious about your presence.
- Avoid petting the dog when he is barking or growling
- If the dog is not with his owner or chained / tethered
- Even if the dog is with the owner, ALWAYS ask the owner’s permission to pet the dog
- Sudden loud noises may surprise or frighten them and may trigger an automatic defensive aggression
- Don’t reach through a fence or gate, over a wall or into a vehicle to pet a dog – they often see this as territory that it is their job to protect for their human family
- Don’t pet ‘Service Dogs’ – they are special working animals and shouldn’t be distracted from their important jobs
- Like us humans, dogs often need some ‘alone’ time, so if they seem to be trying to hide or seeking a quiet place, give them some space
- If a dog is barking excessively, growling, baring their teeth, fixated gaze with whites of eyes showing, then these are all signs that the dog is not comfortable and common ‘warning’ signs preceding a bite, so it’s important to look, listen and understand what a dog is telling you
I know these precautions may all sound like simple common sense and they are, but I guess it’s often easy for us to be tempted by a four-legged fur ball or soulful face and not be aware that we may be unwittingly putting ourselves, others and the dog in danger.
Last, but not least, please remember that dog bites are NOT breed specific, they are behavior specific, so it’s vital to be observant to keep everyone safe and happy.
Helen Broadley & The FidoActive Team