Each year, dogs bite more than 5 million people in the U.S. and Canada. This is an astounding statistic, but it is also one that can be prevented with proper education and training.
Here are some great tips on how to protect yourself and your dog from a bite.
1. Socialize your dog
Dogs that are unfamiliar with their surroundings can often bite out of fear. By constantly changing where you walk your dog, he will become more comfortable with new places.
Be sure to introduce your dog to neighbors, family members and other people in your circle, so strangers don’t frighten your dog.
2. Train your dog
Familiarity with basic commands like “sit”, “stay” and “come” help you remove your dog from a potentially contentious situation.
Focus on non-aggressive activities. Fetch is always a good, non-threatening game. Actions like wrestling and tug-of-war can encourage inappropriate behavior.
Train your dog to be comfortable with people handling his food dish. If you have a puppy you should start this training immediately. Your dog should feel comfortable with you removing his food bowl and taking food out and putting it back while he is eating. If you have adopted an older dog, make sure to be patient and take small steps.
3. Learn body language
This is perhaps one of the most important and often over-looked ways to prevent dog bites. You are your dog’s advocate, so know what he is saying by watching his body language. You can apply this same learning to dogs you don’t know. Also, teach children you know what signs to look for:
- Ears forward
- The propeller wag
- The whole body wag
- Slightly curved tail wagging briskly
- Play bow
- Ears back with forward stance
- Hackles up
- Slow deliberate wag with tail held high or level with back
- Forepaw lift
- Growling/snarling/baring teeth
4. Respect your dog’s space
Let a dog that is sleeping continue to do so without interruption. Wake him up with verbal cues rather than touching him.
Some dogs love to be hugged, but most dogs do not enjoy the feeling of being confined, so be cautious of this behavior and teach children never to hug a strange dog.
5. Keep your dog on a leash
If you allow your dog to run free, make sure he is in a safe and fenced enclosure.