Dog Bite Prevention Tips for Kids, Parents & Pet Owners
WARNING SIGNS and THREATENING GESTURES
by Christopher Newport
BARC Animal Shelter & Adoptions
Editor’s Note: Christopher Newport is a Houston SuperDad. He has a one-year-old son Tristan. He is a Public Information Officer for BARC Animal Shelter and Adoptions, the City of Houston’s municipal pet adoption facility and animal control authority
Children are, by far, the most common victims of dog bites, and they are most likely to be severely injured. In the United States, dogs bite about 4.7 million people every year. In Houston, 1,265 dog bites were recorded last year. Since the beginning of this year, 520 dog bites have been reported.
Children are often the victims of dog bites because many of them are not aware of how their body language affects dogs, nor do they understand canine warning signs. Parental involvement, including educating children on canine signals and communicating the importance of never approaching an unknown dog, could reduce the number of childhood dog bites.
THREATENING GESTURES & CANINE CUES
Most bites are preventable and understanding “Dog Speak” is key to avoiding a potential bite. “Dogs use facial expressions and body language to communicate, just like we do. You should always be receptive to what a dog is telling you, but you also have to make sure your body language isn’t threatening to them,” says Chris Glaser, Animal Control Manager at BARC Animal Shelter and Adoptions.
Specific human gestures can appear threatening to a dog, even if the gestures are unintentional. For example, running from a dog, screaming or making frantic gestures, making direct eye contact, directly facing or standing over a dog, or reaching out to make contact can frighten them, potentially resulting in a bite.
Canines often communicate anxiety or fear by growling, freezing and holding his breath, directly staring or holding his tail up in place. Understanding these cues could prevent a bite.
TIPS TO PREVENT DOG BITES
1 – USE NON-THREATENING GESTURES AROUND DOGS: Soften your eyes, open your mouth, face the dog at an angle, breathe and relax body posture.
2 – RECOGNIZE WARNING SIGNS OF AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR: Signs include wrinkled muzzle, teeth showing while growling, tense lips and facial muscles, hair on back standing up, hard and direct stare, tail up and held in place.
3 – REMAIN CALM: If you’re ever approached by an unknown dog, always keep a calm demeanor
TIPS FOR PET OWNERS
1 – NEVER LEAVE A CHILD UNATTENDED WITH A DOG: Children are often bitten by a family pet or a dog in their own household.
2 – SOCIALIZE DOGS AT A YOUNG AGE: This helps reduce anxiety in uncomfortable situations and could prevent a future dog bite.
3 – PROTECT DOGS FROM SITUATIONS THAT MAY CAUSE ANXIETY: Pet owners usually understand their dog’s behavior patterns. Keeping a dog away from situations that may cause fear or anxiety could prevent a bite.
4 – KEEP DOGS LEASHED IN PUBLIC: This helps keep control of the dog to prevent confrontations.
5 – RESOLVE BEHAVIOR ISSUES: Talk with a veterinarian, working with a dog one-on-one to resolve behavior issues, and obedience training can help ensure he or she is well-behaved around others.
6 – KEEP PETS CONFINED AROUND MAIL CARRIERS: The United States Postal Service recently released the top ten cities where mail carriers are attacked by dogs. Houston was ranked number 9, with 27 attacks reported in 2012.
MEDICAL TREATMENT & INSURANCE CLAIMS
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, nearly one in five people bitten by dogs require medical attention. State Farm Insurance recently released the Top Ten States for dog bite claims in 2012. Texas was listed as Number Three with 236 claims, resulting in an estimated $ 4.3 million in paid claims. Nationally, State Farm had 3,670 dog bite claims, resulting in an estimated $ 108 million in paid claims.