Tip of the Month

11/12/2008 An Owner’s Responsibility in Preventing Dog Bites

Although most interactions between dogs and people are positive and harmonious, there are still an estimated 4.5 million dog bites reported each year in America. These bites range from minor nips to major attacks. There is no way to guarantee that your dog would never bite someone, because all animals have the potential to become aggressive in certain situations. Fortunately, there are many things that an owner can do to reduce the chances of their dog inflicting an injury on someone. Dog owners should make themselves aware of the steps they can take to reduce the risk of their dog biting someone. (Professionals working in animal jobs must also learn the same skills because of the likelihood of a groomer, veterinarian, veterinary assistant or technician, dog trainer, etc. being bitten by a client’s dog.) Learning your dog’s body language and knowing what situations your dog is comfortable in and what situations make your dog nervous or scared is crucial to your safety.

Socialize your dog at an early age. Speak with your veterinarian, veterinary assistant, and/or dog trainer regarding their recommendation on a safe age for a puppy to meet other dogs. Introducing your dog to different situations and people greatly reduces the dog’s chances of becoming nervous and/or fractious in social situations. For instance, taking your new puppy to the veterinarian early on in life and often gives him exposure to your veterinarian, veterinary assistant and technician, receptionists, other clients, etc. and gets him used to a situation that may otherwise be viewed as frightening.

Train your dog. Taking your dog to training/obedience classes is not only an excellent way to socialize your dog, but your dog will also learn how to sit, stay, lie down, and most importantly, trust you. Training is a family matter, and anyone who lives in the same house as the dog should be familiar with the training techniques used and actively participate in the dog’s education. Never hit a dog as a punishment as this can cause a dog to exhibit dangerous behavior as a defense and is very hard to correct with training. Training should always be a fun activity for your dog. Just ask professionals in the various animal jobs out there – training is a life-long commitment, and you should try to work with your dog as much as possible. This will not only reinforce behaviors already learned, but will strengthen the bond between you and your dog as well.

Teach your dog appropriate behavior. Do not teach your dog to chase after or attack people or animals for fun – dogs do not always understand the difference between play and serious situations. The first time your dog exhibits signs of potentially dangerous behavior toward a person or another animal you should seek the advice of those in animal jobs, such as a vet (input from his/her vet assistant is valuable, too, but should be reinforced by the opinion of the vet), animal behaviorist, or qualified dog trainer.

Be a responsible dog owner. Follow all laws related to owning a dog. Again, those in animal jobs can point you in the right direction. License your dog, and provide him with proper veterinary care, including keeping rabies vaccines up-to-date. When you go on outings with your dog, keep him on a leash at all times, and never let your dog roam off-leash or unsupervised. Dogs are social animals and want to be part of a family. Isolating your dog in the backyard or on a chain by himself increases the risk of your dog displaying dangerous behavior.

As a socialized and happy member of your family, your dog will be much less likely to bite. If you don’t know how your dog will react to a new situation, use caution and work with professionals in animal jobs––such as your dog trainer, veterinarian, or veterinary assistant ––to help your dog become comfortable and accustomed to new situations. Working with your dog, building relationships with professionals in animal jobs for guidance, and educating yourself about dog behavior and training is the best way to keep both yourself and others protected from dog bites.

Source: Humane Society of the United States

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