In an effort to focus on understanding and avoiding dog bites, the third week of May (15th – 22nd) has been designated National Dog Bite Prevention Week. Let’s face it, dogs bite. It’s a dog’s natural defense and protection mechanism. As dog lovers, we all need to understand how and why dog bites occur and, how to prevent them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives us the following information regarding dog bites:
How big is the problem?
• About 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year.
• Almost one in five of those who are bitten :a total of 885,000: require medical attention for dog bite-related injuries.
• In 2006, more than 31,000 people underwent reconstructive surgery as a result of being bitten by dogs.
Who is most at risk?
• Children: Among children, the rate of dog bite–related injuries is highest for those ages 5 to 9 years, and children are more likely than adults to receive medical attention for dog bites than adults. Recent research shows that the rate of dog–bite related injuries among children seems to be decreasing.
• Adult Males: Among adults, males are more likely than females to be bitten.
• People with dogs in their homes: Among children and adults, having a dog in the household is associated with a higher incidence of dog bites. As the number of dogs in the home increases, so does the incidence of dog bites. Adults with two or more dogs in the household are five times more likely to be bitten than those living without dogs at home.
How can dog bites be prevented?
Dog bites are a largely preventable public health problem, and adults and children can learn to reduce their chances of being bitten.
Before you bring a dog into your household:
• Consult with a professional (e.g., veterinarian, animal behaviorist, or responsible breeder) to learn what breeds of dogs are the best fit for your household.
• Dogs with histories of aggression are not suitable for households with children.
• Be sensitive to cues that a child is fearful or apprehensive about a dog. If a child seems frightened by dogs, wait before bringing a dog into your household.
• Spend time with a dog before buying or adopting it. Use caution when bringing a dog into a household with an infant or toddler.
If you decide to bring a dog into your home:
• Spay/neuter your dog (this often reduces aggressive tendencies).
• Never leave infants or young children alone with a dog.
• Don’t play aggressive games with your dog (e.g., wrestling).
• Properly socialize and train any dog entering your household. Teach the dog submissive behaviors (e.g., rolling over to expose the abdomen and giving up food without growling).
• Immediately seek professional advice (e.g., from veterinarians, animal behaviorists, or responsible breeders) if the dog develops aggressive or undesirable behaviors.