According to The American Veterinary Medical Association, dogs bite more than 4.5 million people in the U.S. every year. More than 800,000 people have to receive medical attention, and at least half of them are children. Most of these bites happen during everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs, so it’s important to be careful. Since National Dog Bite Prevention Week (May 19-25) is approaching, we thought we’d give you the lowdown on how to keep yourself and your family safe.
Be cautious and respectful. You should always get permission from the dog’s owner before approaching or petting them. Even if they look cute and cuddly, they could have an aggressive demeanor or bite if provoked. Kids love to grab dog’s tails, but that could cause them to nip at or bite them. You should also treat your own pet with respect and avoid doing things that will agitate them (e.g. petting your dog while he’s eating). This could trigger even the nicest pet to snap. It’s safest to never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
Related link:5 Health Benefits of Owning a Dog
Keep your hands to yourself. Never reach through or over a fence to pet a dog. They can be protective of their territory and see your action as a threat. You should also never bother a dog when they’re sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies (which would be aggravating to anyone!). Teach your kids that they shouldn’t run past dogs. It’s instinctual for them to chase after you and could cause them become overly-excited or aggressive. For more educational information to help teach young children stay safe around dogs, check out The Blue Dog Parent Guide & CD.
If you feel threatened, stay calm. Screaming or running away is the last thing you should do when you feel threatened by a dog. Instead, you should avoid eye contact and speak calmly and firmly to the animal (if you choose to say anything at all). Stay still if the dog sniffs you. Often, they’ll leave you alone when they realize that you don’t pose a threat. However, if the dog is aggressive and knocks you to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your head and neck to protect your face.
What have you taught your kids about safely interacting with dogs? Share your thoughts in the comments section or tweet us and use the hashtag #dogbitepreventiontips.
Deanna Ray is the Director of Social Media and Online Brand Strategy for NPN Media and KnowMore.TV. She’s also the founder of For the Love of My Dogs, a content-driven website featuring advice, stories and tips on all things dog.