Preventing Dog Bites

Preventing Dog Bites bb3 Feb 14, 2011

By Staff writer State Farm™ Employee

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The Canadian Safety Council estimates there are 460,000 dog bite incidents each year. Dog bites are a serious public health problem that can cause both physical and emotional damage to victims and considerable cost to communities.

A dogís tendency to bite depends on such factors as heredity, obedience training, socialization, health, and the victimís behavior. There are good dogs and bad dogs within every breed, just as there can be responsible and irresponsible owners of each breed. In addition to stressing responsible pet ownership, State Farm encourages responsible behavior and caution around dogs, including family pets. Under the right circumstances, any dog might bite.

Who's Being Bitten?

  • Children make up more than 60 percent of all dog bite victims. 
  • The elderly and home service workers like mail carriers and meter readers also are high on the list of frequent dog bite victims.

What's A Dog Owner To Do?

  • Carefully consider your pet selection. Before and after selection, your veterinarian is the best source for information about behaviour and suitability.
  • Make sure your pet is socialized as a young puppy, so it feels at ease around people and other animals. Expose your puppy to a variety of situations a little at a time and under controlled circumstances; continue that exposure on a regular basis as your dog gets older.
  • If you're not sure how your dog will react to a large crowd or a busy street, be cautious. Don't put your dog in a position where it feels threatened or teased.
  • Keep your dog healthy. Have your dog vaccinated against rabies and preventable infectious diseases. Parasite control is important to how your dog feels and behaves.
  • Neuter your pet. It's a fact: Neutered dogs are less likely to bite.
  • Be a responsible pet owner. License your dog with the community as required, and obey established leash laws.
  • Dogs are social animals; spending time with your pet is important. Dogs that are frequently left alone have a greater chance of developing behaviour problems.
  • Be alert. Know your dog. You would naturally be alert to signs of illness, but you must also watch for signs your dog is uncomfortable or feeling aggressive.

How Can You Avoid Being Bitten?

  • Be aware of potentially dangerous situations. For example, donít disturb a dog that is caring for puppies, sleeping, or eating.
  • Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
  • Teach young children to be careful around all pets.
  • Teach kids to be cautious around new dogs, even if the dog is known around the neighbourhood.
  • If you can avoid it, don't run past a dog Ė especially one that canít see you coming. Dogs naturally love to chase and catch things. Don't give them a reason to become excited or aggressive.
  • If a dog threatens you, remain calm. Don't scream. If you say anything, speak calmly and firmly. Avoid eye contact. Try to remain still until the dog leaves, or back away slowly until the dog is out of sight. Don't turn and run.
  • If you fall or are knocked to the ground by an attacking dog, curl into a ball with your hands over your head and neck. Protect your face.

If Your Dog Bites Someone

Even if the bite can be explained (perhaps someone stepped on the dog's tail), it's important to take responsibility for your dog's actions by taking these steps:

  • Restrain the dog immediately. Separate it from the scene of the attack. Confine it.
  • Check on the victim's condition. Professional medical advice should be sought to evaluate the risk of rabies or other infections. Call 9-1-1 if paramedic response is required.
  • Provide important information: your name and address and information about your dog's most recent rabies vaccination. If your dog does not have a current rabies vaccination, it may be necessary to quarantine it or even euthanize it for rabies testing. The person bitten may need to undergo rabies treatment.
  • Report the bite to your insurance company.
  • Comply with local ordinances regarding the reporting of dog bites.
  • Consult your veterinarian for advice about dog behaviour that will help prevent similar problems in the future.

If YOU Are The Bite Victim

  • Treat your wounds.
  • If your own dog bit you, confine it immediately and call your veterinarian to check your dog's vaccination records.
  • If someone else's dog bit you, contact authorities and tell them everything you can about the dog: the owner's name (if you know it), the color and size of the dog, where you saw it, and if you've seen it before. These details may help animal-control officers locate the dog.

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