Pay Attention to Prevent Dog Bites
Preventing dog bites is not complex. When adults and children follow the rules for proper greeting a dog there are very few if any bites. The most important rule is to pay attention to what the dog's body is telling you. So part of bite prevention is learning the early signs of fear, and removing your dog from the fearful situation. This is where people mess up, especially with family and friend's dogs. Approximately 77% of dog bites to children come from the family or known dog. Even children who have been taught to not hug a dog, or bother a dog when sleeping do so anyway resulting in bites. So the rules are ignored when it comes to a known dog, and the dog's response is also ignored putting the dog in a situation where it may bite.
Here is a common situations. An owner is walking a beautiful Golden Retriever by the playground and sees a friend and their kids playing there. This dog is nervous around loud noises, as shown by the pacing, panting and ducking around the owner's legs. The owner talks to the friend, ignoring what the dog's body is saying. The kids know this dog and have petted it at home and the dog seemed to like petting in that setting. Now 3 kids run up to the pretty dog, who cannot move away. As the adults are continuing to talk, ignoring the dogs and 3 kids the dog's fear escalates up and it snaps at the child who hugs it. A child screams and cries, the dog cowers and shakes, and the kids run off. The shocked owner says "What the heck happened?" Ignoring the rules of petting - stay away if a dog does not come near, do not pet around the head or face, one person petting at a time - were all ignored by the children and adults. This was not a fluke situation. The dog was telling everyone "Get me out of here" but no one removed the dogs or the kids so the dog did what it had to do. It bit the child to make the child go away.
If the owner was watching her dog and the kids as she talked to her friend, she would have stepped away with her dogs and said "Kids leave him alone. He is getting overwhelmed here." Observing the scene she would realize the park had more noise that made her dog a nervous than. It is not rude to share attention when your are out with your dog between people and your dog. If you have to stop talking to a friend to protect your dog, that is what you do as a responsible owner. Other people are not always going to follow the rules of greeting a dog right and you have to take charge.
The other bite scene that is the owner thinking that when their nervous, barking, lunging dog is "ok" because they have not bitten yet. They stay in the situation with the nervous dog keeping the dog stuck. They may even encourage kids or people to attempt to pet their staring, growling dog thinking "He won't bite. He just has to get used to you." When a dog is staring at another dog or person, they hold still looking calm but they are on the brink of lunge - bite. One movement closer, a hand reach or step the approaching human takes is enough for this dog to lunge u p and bite. The owner here is ignoring the dog's body language. This dog needs to be removed from the situation and tell the approaching person to STOP!
If the dogs in these scenarios were not ignored, but were listened to, the bite rate would drop dramatically. Please watch your dog and respond to what your dog needs at all times when around people. For more information on dog body language and bite prevention please visit www.doggonesafe.com
- written by Dr. Sally J. Foote