Don’t you just want to pet him? Alas, he’s a fear biter. Use caution!

I’m a dog person. I’ve enjoyed the company of dogs for nearly my entire life (currently the adorable canine pictured at left).  I used to assume every dog was friendly, until I became the owner of a dog that did, indeed, bite someone — actually, two people (yes, that same adorable canine). I love my dog and I am now dealing with his “special temperament” responsibly. I’m happy to say that no one was seriously injured, and we have had no more biting incidents. However, “dog and people safety” has become a constant issue for our family, and one we take very seriously. It’s a terrible feeling to be the owner of a dog that bites someone. Being on the receiving end of a bite is, no doubt, even worse!

Today, I find my approach to strange dogs is much different than it was before my bubble of “dog naivete” was popped. The truth is, all dogs have the potential to bite – out of fear, pain, territoriality, or true aggression. So when I found out that this week is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, I wanted to take the opportunity to raise awareness about something that’s a lot more common than we dog-lovers like to think. Did you know:

-An average of 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

-Children are by far the most common victims of dog bites

-Nearly HALF of all dog bites involve children being bitten by the family dog

Even if you don’t own a dog, it’s likely that your child encounters dogs on a regular basis – at friends’ homes, at a soccer game, on the way to school. Please take a few minutes to learn about dog behavior and  educate your kids so they will never have to feel the pain of a dog bite!

Resources

There are hundreds of articles online on how to prevent dog bites. Here are some resources from some of my favorite dog experts:

1. An online dog safety program including a quiz from BarkBusters.com. This is a child-friendly review that includes safety tips for situations kids find themselves in daily, such as:

  • If a dog is chasing you while you are riding your bike, stop your bike and put it between you and the dog. Then stand very still.
  • Never try to pet a dog that is behind a fence or in a car. The dog may try to protect his territory and bite you.
  • If your ball goes over the fence, ask the homeowner to get it for you.

2. Check out radio host and dog trainer Greg Kleva on Facebook for some great information and tips on dog bite prevention this week.

3. For dog owners: An audio MP3 (about 11 minutes) featuring Victoria Stillwell (of “It’s Me or the Dog”) on how to deal with an aggressive dog that you own. She says 99% of the dog bites she has seen have been due to the dog being fearful.

4. Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan also has an article on his blog with some tips for protecting your children around dogs. Most important, I think, is the “no talk, no touch, no eye contact” rule for strange dogs. This is a tough one for people to understand, but dogs don’t always interpret our “friendly greetings” – smiles and hugs, for example – as friendly.

5. Intriguing: This Blue Dog Parent Guide and CD claims to be the “only dog bite educational tool scientifically proven to help young children learn behaviors that can keep them safe.” It’s geared for ages 3 to 6. I haven’t personally checked it out, but for only $8 through the American Veterinary Medical Association, it may be worth a gamble.

Have you or your child been bitten by a dog? What triggered the bite? Stay safe, everyone!