The third full week each May is designated National Dog Bite Prevention Week. While it’s important to make sure you’re not a dog bite victim yourself, it’s also imperative that you prevent your own dog from biting others – both for the sake of any potential victims as well as for your own dog’s safety. As the now-famous video footage of the cat Tara heroically rescuing a young boy from a dog attack illustrates, children are the most common victims of dog bites. Worse, children are much more likely to suffer severe injuries when they’re bitten by a dog. When children are bitten by dogs, it’s usually when they are interacting with familiar dogs and doing everyday activities.
Avoid being bitten
Since children between 5 and 9 years of age are the most common victims of dog bites, all children should be taught basic facts about safe behavior around dogs:
- Never approach an unfamiliar dog.
- Never disturb a dog that is eating, sleeping, is caring for puppies, or is playing with a toy.
- Never scream or run when approached by a dog as this can trigger a dog’s instinct to chase.
- Always ask permission before petting someone else’s dog.
Keep your dog from biting others
Remember that any dog can bite given the right provocation; however, there are some steps you can take to reduce the risk that your dog will bite someone:
- Spay or neuter your dog, which will reduce your dog’s urge to roam, and may also reduce aggression.
- Because a fearful dog is more likely to bite, spend time socializing your dog so that he or she is comfortable in a variety of situations. A basic obedience training class is also helpful.
- Keep your dog leashed and under your control when in a public place.
- Give your dog regular exercise, but avoid aggressive play behavior such as wrestling or tug of war, and never allow your dog to “mouth” you.
- Make sure your dog is current on vaccinations.
- Supervise your dog around young children.
If you do get bitten
The CDC estimates that one out of every five dog bites results in an injury serious enough to require medical treatment. If you are the victim of a dog bite, take the following steps:
- Confine the dog if possible, both to prevent another bite and to ascertain whether the dog is up to date on vaccinations.
- Carefully clean the wound with warm soapy water and apply pressure to stop the bleeding.
- Obtain medical assistance if necessary for a serious injury, or if the bite subsequently shows any signs of infection. Contact your physician for advice if you are in doubt about whether you need medical care or not.
- If you were bitten by an unfamiliar dog, notify the police or animal control.