We know that Dog Bite Prevention Week was last month, but we still think the message is incredibly important to pass on. 48% of households across the United States have a dog, and the AVMA estimates about 4.5 million people, mostly children, are bitten by dogs each year. Before we jump to the conclusion that dogs that bite are vicious killers, it’s important to know that even perfectly sweet animals can resort to biting; which is why etiquette and teaching ourselves and our children how to be around new animals is paramount. Here are a few tips to pass along to help prevent an unnecessary injury and potential trauma for all.
- Be Proactive. If you know your pet can be crotchety or has shown signs of being prone to bite (baring teeth, growling, etc.) don’t hesitate to put a soft muzzle on them for everyone’s peace of mind. Muzzles get a bad rap because it conjures up Hannibal-like images of dogs with metal wrapped around their snout but, these days, there are much less intimidating options that provide the same relief for everyone. Be advised, though, that a muzzle can also amp up a dog’s anxiety and make them more irritable; while you may not have to worry about a bite, always take your dog’s quality of life into consideration and just leave them home when you can.
- Proper Etiquette. We know dogs and children can be a bit of a wild card combo, but it’s essential to teach your kids how to be around dogs, especially new ones. Teach them not to use fast, jarring movements, advocate for inside voices, the importance of being considerate of their face and eyes, how to approach a new dog (slowly, with back of palm reached out), and especially how to read a dog’s reaction; if there’s even a slight growl rumbling it’s best to back off. It’s important never to startle a sleeping dog or grab, lay, or wrestle with them unless it’s clear they don’t mind the attention, and always keep your face away from theirs when meeting a new animal.
- Proper etiquette goes for dogs, too. Of course training your dog how to be calm and polite around people is a direct way to prevent dog bites but, like we said, even friendly dogs get old and irritable, or may be suffering from an injury that’s making them lash out, so sometimes training isn’t a foolproof way of preventing an accident. Stay on top of your dog’s manners but also be attuned to their attitude; if your dog is acting abnormally take them to the vet or remove them from any situation that might exacerbate the behavior.
We hope it never comes to this but if you or your child suffers from a dog bite, immediately wash it with soap and water and try to demand proof of a rabies vaccination from the animal’s owner, even if it means calling the dog’s vet yourself. If necessary, head to an emergency room for treatment to reduce the risk of infection. If your dog is the culprit, restrain your pet immediately and try to sequester them elsewhere if possible. Immediately check on the victim and take responsibility – provide your contact information and any other information the victim may need to know about your animal. Again, education is key for all parties so train your dog and your kids to keep everyone safe and happy.