It's National Dog Bite Prevention Week. This entire week is dedicated to educating people of all ages about how to prevent dog bites.
There is an estimated population of 70 million dogs living in U.S. households right now. Nearly 5 million (reported) dog bites occur in the United States each year. Most of these bites involve children. We can change those statistics and help keep kids and families safe! The majority of dog bites, if not all, are preventable.
We as dog guardians, parents, educators and family members can learn how to "read" a dogs body language better and teach our children how to recognize the warning signs of a dog that could potentially be under stress to aid in preventing dog bites.
1. Dogs don’t like hugs and kisses — Teach your kids not to hug or kiss a dog on the face. Hugging the family dog or other face-to-face contacts are common causes of bites to the face. Instead, teach kids to scratch the dog on the chest or the side of the neck.
2. Be a tree if a strange dog approaches — Teach kids to stand still, like a tree. Trees are boring and the dog will eventually go away. This works for strange dogs, and any time the family dog gets too frisky or becomes aggressive.
3. Never tease a dog.
4. Never disturb a dog that’s sleeping, eating, or protecting something.
5. Teach your kids to Speak Dog, and only interact only with happy dogs!
Familiar children were most commonly bitten in relation to food or resource guarding and “benign” interactions such as petting, hugging, bending over, or speaking to the dog. ~Dog bite study
So, we've learned some dog behavior warning signs and can watch the dog's body language and we've taught our child some of the basics of how to interact with a dog. Now what?
NOW, the most important things parents can do:
Supervision means different things to different people. To some parents, supervision means just being home, to others it means watching out the window while the kids play with the dog outside while to others it means having hands on and being part of the interaction between the child and the dog. Many dog bites have happened to children while the parents were ‘supervising’. - Jennifer Shryock, Family Paws Parent Education
2. If you see these signs, intervene quickly and redirect the child/dog. These signals include:
- licking – tongue flicking out or licking his own nose
- repeatedly licking the child (this is a “Kiss to Dismiss”)
- showing a half moon of white in his eye
- turning away
- getting up and moving away
3. Learn the Dog Behavior Continuum: We hear it all the time, “Kids and dogs should never be left unsupervised”. That’s great advice, but what else should we be doing? Supervision only works when we know what to look for and when it’s time to intervene. We have to know when a dog is going from “Enjoyment to Tolerance, to Enough Already“ and back again.
4. Don’t assume your dog is “good with kids”. All dogs have their breaking point. We all do. If a toddler must interact with your dog, you should have your hands on the dog, too. Even if your dog is great with kids and has never bitten before, why take a chance?
5. Train the dog—Take your dog to obedience classes where positive reinforcement is used. Never pin, shake, choke, hold the dog down, or roll the dog over to teach it a lesson. Dogs treated this way are likely to turn their aggression on weaker family members.
6. Involve older children with training the family dog (while supervising).
7. Don’t allow children to punish the dog, and don’t punish the dog yourself. Condition the dog to enjoy the presence and actions of children using positive experiences.
Education is the key to safety and well being for everyone in the home. This week is the perfect time to reflect on how we can better protect our canine companions, children, and others from the preventable tragedy of a dog bite.
Please share this to help educate others so we can all work together to keep dogs, kids, and families safe 365 days a year!
In Love and Furry Best Wishes!
Information provided by Conscious Companion and Doggone Safe