Every year one week is designated as National Dog Bite Prevention Week. The AVMA reports with an estimated population of 70 million dogs living in U.S. households, millions of people, most of them children, are bitten by dogs every year. The majority of these bites, if not all, are preventable.
Why dogs bite: Dogs can bite because they are nervous, scared, in pain, surprised, or just protecting their house, car, toy, bed, etc. Dogs see your actions and can smell your anxiety or fear which can stimulate them to a heightened level of arousal.
Dogs respond to body language. If a dog is misreading your actions, they will try to protect themselves. Loud noises and fast movements can excite or scare dogs.
When a dog is in pain either from illness or injury, they don’t understand where the pain is coming from. If you touch them, that sensation might create more pain for them, and they could respond by biting. Many dogs are quiet even when in pain. If you suspect your dog is in pain, simply leave it alone and rely on your veterinarian’s advice on how to best handle the dog.
Pet parents need to be proactive rather than reactive to their dog’s behavior. Practicing and rewarding calm behaviors and jobs like “sit and stay” can lead to really good manners and habits. Using treats and practicing positive reinforcement as often as you can on a daily basis are key.
Visit the AVMA’s website to learn more about dog bite prevention and access tools to help educate others so we can all work together to prevent dog bites.
Recommended Reading: Dr. Joe Martins addresses local Cub Scouts on Pet Safety