"Dogs are our best friends, providing love, comfort and protection," says Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane Association. "But it's up to us humans to be good friends to them as well by protecting everyone around us – ourselves, our kids, and our dogs – from the dangers and consequences of dog bites."
Dogs can bite for many reasons, including improper care and/or a lack of socialization. All dogs, even well trained gentle dogs, are capable of biting when provoked, especially when eating, sleeping or caring for puppies. Thus, even when a bite is superficial or classified as "provoked," dogs may be abandoned or euthanized. Therefore, it's vitally important to keep both children and dogs safe by preventing dog bites wherever possible.
"A dog bite can have a profound effect on the dog's family, especially the children, who, if the dog is euthanized, might have to cope with loss for the first time," said Dr. Amy McCullough, American Humane Association's National Director of Humane Research and Therapy, speaking at the National Dog Bite Prevention Week Coalition kick-off event in Houston on May 11, which also featured a special furry guest: her own companion, Butler the Weather Channel Therapy Dog.
"In my work as a registered therapy dog handler, I teach children the proper ways to approach a dog so they can avoid being bitten. All dog owners everywhere need to make sure they know the steps they can take to prevent their dog from biting someone."
To reduce the number of injuries to people and the risk of relinquishment of dogs who bite, American Humane Association offers the following suggestions:
- Never approach an unknown dog or a dog that is alone without an owner, and always ask for permission before petting the dog.
- Never approach an injured animal – find an adult who can get the help s/he needs
- Never approach a dog that is eating, sleeping or nursing puppies.
- Don't poke, hit, pull, pinch or tease a dog.
For Dog Owners:
- Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog, even if it is a family pet.
- Interactions between children and dogs should always be monitored to ensure the safety of both your child and your dog.
- Teach your children to treat the dog with respect and not to engage in rough or aggressive play.
- Make sure your pet is socialized as a young puppy so it feels at ease around people and other animals.
- Never put your dog in a position where s/he feels threatened.
- Walk and exercise your dog regularly to keep him/her healthy and to provide mental stimulation.
- Use a leash in public to ensure you are able to control your dog.
- Regular veterinary care is essential to maintain your dog's health; a sick or injured dog is more likely to bite.
- Be alert. If someone approaches you and your dog, caution them to wait before petting the dog; give your pet time to be comfortable with a stranger.
American Humane Association also offers a free online booklet available for families with children called "Pet Meets Baby," providing valuable information on introducing a new child to a home with a pet – or a new pet into a home with a child.
Image via AVMA.org