Dogs are a beloved and accepted part of our society; there are more than 74 million dogs living in the United States. Unfortunately, in recent times dog bites have become a fast growing litigation opportunity. The stories, like that of a postal working being bitten or a child receiving serious injuries involving dog bites, hold horrifying images for every dog lover. Below are some statistics on dog bites occurring in the U.S. and prevention tips that can help minimize the chance of being bitten by a dog.
- 4 million dog bites occur annually in the U.S.
- 1 out of 6 dog bites requires medical attention
- The 5th most frequent cause of emergency room visits is dog bites
- The majority of dog bites will happen to children under age 12, the elderly and home service people (i.e., Cox workers, postal worker, etc…)
- Children under the age of 12 receive more than 50% of reported dog bites
- Children under the age of 4 receive the majority of their dog bite injuries to the head and neck
- Boys are bitten more frequently than girls
- The family pet or a known pet has the highest incident rate of dogs that bite
- Dog bites occurring from ages 16 and up are generally work related and happen to service workers such as mail carriers, meter readers, cable TV technicians, etc…
Things to Avoid When Away From Home:
- A dog in his own yard without his owner
- The pack. Two or more dogs together. The larger the number in a pack the higher the risk of attack.
- Restrained dog (chained or tethered)
- A loose dog without its owner present
- Male dogs especially not neutered
Signals & Body Language Cues the Dog Uses to Say He’s Not Comfortable:
- A dog with his ears forward
- A closed mouth
- Eyes in a hard stare
- Intense look with forward weight shift, ears forward, eyes hard stare, mouth closed , high tail
- Half moon eye where the whites of the eye show like a sliver of moon
- Wide eyed look
- Weight shift backwards
- Tucked tail
- Shrunken or lowered down body posture
- Lifting of a paw and weight shift backward
- Licking the lips
- Sniffing the ground
- A high stiff tail that appears to be slowly wagging
Parents Should Avoid the Following with the Family Dog or Dog of a Friend:
- Interaction without supervision of the child and dog
- Running and screaming!
- Disturbing the dog’s resting place
- Taking a bone, or food or toy from the dog
- Disturbing a mother dog with puppies
- Staring at the dog
- Face to face contact
- Hugging and kissing the dog
- Going into the dog’s den, crate, (includes dog lying on bed, or furniture etc)
- Playing tug-o-war games
Dogs that have a Higher Incident Rate of Being Aggressive are the Following:
- An untrained dog
- Injured dog
- Dogs that don’t receive adequate socialization prior to age 14 weeks
- Dogs from a pet store and so called “puppy mills”
- Dogs kept on stake, chain, restrained or tethered
- A new dog in the house (after 60 days incident rate goes down)
- Male unaltered dogs
What to do if a Dog is Threatening or Attacks You:
- Do not scream and run away
- Remain calm
- Hands at your sides with fingers pulled into a fist
- Avoid eye contact
- Remain stationary until the dog loses interest, then slowly back away
What to do if a Dog Attacks:
- Feed the dog anything he will take, your jacket, purse, brief case, a hat, etc…
- Try to put anything between you and the dog; a trash can, the lid, a bike etc…
- If knocked to ground, roll up into a ball and with your hands cover your ears and remain motionless
What does all this mean?
Is there really a dog bite epidemic? Dog bites are a fast growing litigation opportunity in our society.
Animal Control considers an incident to be a dog’s tooth or nail that breaks the skin; this would include nips from playful puppies, scratches from a dog nail, scrapes from a tooth and accidental bites by dogs.
Most dog bites are preventable
A heightened awareness and education of dog body language and behaviors can decrease many of the incidents, and lesson the degree of injury to the bite victim.
The reality is that about 2% of the dog population will bite
Children, the elderly and service workers receive most of the dog bites reported, with children receiving more than half of all dog bites occurring. Boys are bitten more frequently than girls. The family dog, except in the case of the service worker incident holds the highest number of incidents.
Absence of supervision and education make a stand for a high priority for clearer rules and boundaries for children and the family pet.
- For starters: TRAIN THE DOG
Give the dog good clear boundaries and education. Spend the time to teach him what is and is not allowable in your household and from his behavior. Dogs, like children, crave and need direction and boundaries to help them feel safe and fit in well.
Easy obedience exercises to do with your dog:
*Teach the dog to wait before going out the door, *to sit before his meals, *to stop barking on command, *to get off the furniture and *not to possess his food, toys, yard, car or anything likely to be a guarded possession to him. *Don’t allow the dog to growl or bark at other dogs while on a walk, *to pull on the leash or to act out in any way. These are easily accomplished with a good obedience program. Seek professional training if necessary.
Good manners and clear obedience control go a long way to help the dog feel more secure in his world, which can help decrease the chance of a biting dog.
- Parents train your children! Seek out animal and dog safety programs like the Be a Tree, Be Safe Around Dogs program. These are FREE educational presentations that use pictures and activities to demonstrate to your children what to do and look for to be safe around a dog.
Don’t leave the dog and child unsupervised even for a few minutes. Treat the dog just as you would a swimming pool. You wouldn’t leave your child unattended by the pool even for the moment. Even if you ran to answer the telephone, that’s how fast an accident can happen.
Teach your children to respect the dog’s space. Dogs will feel trapped or cornered when a child approaches if there is no easy way for your dog to escape an uncomfortable situation. A trapped feeling to a dog will increase the potential for a bite.
Dogs don’t like hugs, kisses, or close face to face contact. Eye contact is a challenge and threat to them. Don’t allow the dog to be disturbed during resting time. The dog could become territorial over his nap spot, feeding place or get startled and snap.
Often by the time the dog actually bites he has been giving warning signals for some time. Be aware of signals the dog is giving that show he is uncomfortable.
Other important things to consider with dogs and children; dogs perceive a child bending over them like another dog standing in a dominant pose over their shoulders; as a possible threat. Eye contact to a dog is a challenge or a threat. Hugs and kisses for a child seem to be appropriate affection for the child, but to the dog can be misinterpreted. His natural God given instinct is the ability to warn or protect himself by growling and then using his teeth, AFTER he has given many of the other warning signals outlined above.
Most dogs really don’t want to bite, but have been either made uncomfortable long enough without an escape route, or they have had enough.
Do not walk up to a dog that is loose or restrained and try to make friends with it. You are better to ignore the dog completely. If you panic the situation will generally excite and or confuse the dog and makes potentially getting bitten more likely. Do not run, do not scream, do not panic or flail arms or legs. All these things show the dog a weakness, confuse him, and can cause him to chase you. Extremities like hands and feet moving and flailing look to him like threats and become targets for him to bite in defense or excitement. Observe a dog in defense of attack and he will stop and circle immediately when the movement stops. He circles because he doesn’t want to put his back to the threat and become vulnerable. If the movement starts again the dog will likely re-engage and bite again.
Companies with employees with a high exposure to dogs should offer bite and safety prevention courses
Advice to companies with high exposure to their employees on the job is to budget and provide for adequate bite safety prevention and education programs. Companies that provide such programming show a drastic reduction in the number of dog/worker incidents and liability on the part of the company.
In a service household route of 500 the average dog encounter is approximately 300. Most of the dogs will display some level of possessive guarding and aggression over their territory.
Some general guidelines for workers :
Have a plan with your employer how to handle a possible conflict with a loose and unsupervised dog. Have a personal course of action outlined if there becomes a conflict with a dog. Ask the dog owner, if present, to put away the dog while the work is being done, or to control the dog with a down-stay or other trained controlled behavior.
Multiple dogs present higher risks. If possible, do not approach the home if the dog is present without the owner. Avoid eye contact and act calmly, present yourself in a sideways position as if to walk by without a direct approach towards the dog. This will decrease any concerns of threat to the dog, which is increased if he is advanced upon. If a dog does advance towards you as if to bite, try to put any kind of barrier between you if possible. If the bite is inevitable, try to carry something with you that you can feed to the dog. Don’t hit the dog with it, but use it between you and the dog. A clip board, purse, briefcase, jacket, hat; give him anything to bite other than you. Even a jacket will lessen the severity of the bite if it is between you and the dog. Try to be calm or the aggression will likely escalate.
The general rule is if the dog has teeth, in the right circumstance he could bite.
Written by Toni Drugmand
Sit Means Sit Phoenix
Contact us for the Be A Tree, a Free safety educational program for Children to learn how to be safe around dogs. Or to schedule a Corporate Bite and Safety Prevention course for your Employees
Sit Means Sit Phoenix, 602-992-8743