Dog Bite Prevention Week, 2020!
Updated: Apr 15
Dog Bite Prevention Week
Like most days or weeks of observance, we believe the cause behind this week should be observed every day.
In the United States, thousands of people predominantly children and the elderly, loose their lives from injuries sustained from dog bites or dog attacks each year, and even more like 4.5 million suffer from bites.
Thanks to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s studies, and our own experiences with the Traci's Paws spokesdogs (past and present), we've been able to provide useful information to potentially prevent dog bites & dog attacks. Remember, we are not veterinarians but we are providing you with information based off of facts which will be referenced throughout.
Did you know:
“Children are the most common victims of serious dog bites. Seventy percent of fatal dog attacks and more than half of bite wounds requiring medical attention involve children”, American Veterinary Medical Association.
How to Prevent:
Never leave your infants or children unattended with a dog without adult supervision, regardless of the dog’s size. Even Chihuahuas and Dachshunds have enough bite pressure to do major damage or could kill an infant. Crying infants and an outburst from a screaming child may be enough to startle a dog who acts out in fear by biting.
Please do not let your kids interact with your dog while the dog is eating. Getting into the food bowl or in your pup's face while eating may be seen as a threat by your dog, and might not end well. This ties into the information below, on dog bites in the home.
It you have toddlers or small children who are able to approach a dog, know that you are responsible for your child. Do not let your child run up to a stranger’s dog or a stray dog. You have no idea how that dog will react. If your child is a little older (old enough to walk, talk, and understand that even nice dogs can bite), make sure to teach them how to approach a dog and properly pet one.
Make sure that your child knows to ALWAYS ask the owner of the dog if they can pet the dog before doing so. Keep in the back of your mind that even the most well behaved and trained dog will bite if the environment in just right.
By asking the owner permission to pet his/her dog, they can tell you if the dog doesn’t like his ears touched or doesn’t like to be patted on the head, etc...
If given permission, tell your child to open is hand, put his fingers together with a flat palm and walk slowly up to the dog with the back of his palm (fingers pointing down), up to the dog. No running or jumping and no dangling fingers, they may resemble a snack! Once the dog has sniffed or even licked the back of his hand, he can slowly and gently pet the dog’s neck from the top of his head to his back, or even scratch under his cheek. Always listen to the owner. If the owner says “thank you” or “that’s enough”, be sure to stop. Have your child bring his hand slowly back to his side, as a fast or quick jerk may startle the dog. If the dog snarls or growls be sure to tell your child to slowly bring his hand back to his side.
As I stated earlier, even a good dog may bite if the environment is just right. What does this mean? I have provided two examples that I made up, but 100% possible. Well, Lexi has actually chomped into me during snack time, so that is partially true!
Example 1. Emee the Chi
Emee the Chi is our current spokesdog who is also very sweet, but skittish. Emee will not go home with anyone but her mommy and daddy and it takes her a long time to warm up to new people and animals. If we are at the Quartyard Dog park and she has warmed up enough to let you pet her, and then a car speeds by that backfires, that sound may be enough to startle her and have her react with a bite. Tiny mouth, not many teeth, but it could break the skin. Is Emee a mean dog? No! Is Emee an aggressive dog? No. Is Emee is a good girl who may react when startled because she is very small, 3.5 pound Chihuahua who always has to make sure she isn’t stomped or eaten by something bigger than herself? YES!
Example 2. Lexi the Dachs
Although our sweet girl is no longer with us, we can still use her as an example and she can continue to help teach others. Lexi was really the sweetest dog and went into the classroom with me for 5 years. Before she passed away, she was nearly 19 years old and nearly blind but had an excellent sense of smell to help make up for her failing eyesight.
If you bring your kid over to play and he eats a hotdog on the way over, and he goes in to pet Lexi before washing his hands, there is almost 100% chance Lexi’s going that think that tiny finger is a mini-hotdog! Let me tell you from experience, Lexi has a great bite and will not let go if she thinks you’re taking her food away. Is Lexi aggressive or mean? No! Has she ever bitten anyone before (besides me at snack time)? Never! Is she hungry at ANY given time in the day because she’s a Dachshund? YES!
Did you know:
“Half of all bites come from the household dog”, American Veterinary Medical Association.
How to prevent:
There are several scenarios of how these bites in the home occur. Two common reasons are that a new dog comes into the home and members of the family may not know how to handle the dog, (know how to approach a dog, pet, respect its space, etc.) or a new child comes into the home and is not properly supervised around the dog.
If you already have a dog or dogs and expecting a baby, or bringing an adopted child of any age into the home, you should try to prepare your dog the best way possible. First off, dogs love having a routine. Once the baby or child comes home, your routine will never be the same again, and your pup’s won’t be either. This can stress your dog out and cause her to react in ways you may have never seen before, including biting.
If you can start making your dog’s routine a little less routine a few weeks before the baby or child arrive, that may help her make the transition easier. Mimicking baby sounds or even playing a few recorded baby cries and tantrums may help your pup as well, and probably get you a little prepared too! There are many pet trainers with many thoughts and many ideas on this, reach out to one locally and see which one is the best fit for you and your family.
If you are bringing a new dog into the home, make sure to sit with everyone in your household and go over basic pet handling rules. If you have a toddler, make sure that you teach your child from as early as possible to be nice to your dog and not to pull ears and tails. Of course, this is easier said than done when you’re teaching 2 year old, so make sure that you are very involved with the interaction between your toddler and dog. Pulling ears and tails do not feel good, and may very well result in a bite.
Make that that you do not smother your dog. Dogs of all sizes, especially small dogs, feel threatened when cuddled or hugged.
In this photo, Emee the Chi is giving me a warning letting me know I'm holding her too close. She is very small and she feels trapped, and she has to protect herself. Not all warnings are as obvious, so you have to keep your eyes open. I moved my hand right after I took this photo and she was happy again!
If you are bringing a new dog into a home that already has a dog, be sure to introduce them properly as well. If this introduction is forced, they'll probably end up fighting and you'll get bitten if you try to get in the middle.
Regardless of which scenario you may be part of in the future always know that you are responsible for your children and your pets. Make sure your kids know how to approach and pet a dog properly, when to approach and if they’re not old enough or emotionally not ready, don’t force it.
Always watch for signs from your dog as well. If your dog isn’t ready, they may cower down, growl, snarl, or even hide. Again, don’t force it.
Things will come together when the timing is right, and your family will live happily together and hopefully without anyone getting bitten. Remember there are many scenarios in which a person or child could be bitten by a dog. Be sure to always use common sense and know that you must be responsible for your children, and make sure they know how to approach a dog and pet it properly. It’s also ok to keep your small children away from dogs until you are able to teach them how to approach and pet one or until they are ready to understand. This way your child’s experience of petting a dog is more likely to be a good one, and one less bite to be reported for the year!