If you’ve ever been around a dog that’s bitten someone, you know the pet parent usually says, “I don’t know why he did that! He’s never done that before!” The truth is any dog will bite given the right circumstances. It’s the only way he has to defend himself (or you). And sometimes, communication signals can go awry even for dogs. Tempers flare, tensions rise, miscommunication leads to a perceived threat, and then a bite occurs.
Dogs do bite. According to the American Veterinarian Medical Association, more than 4.5 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs each year. One in five people bitten by dogs requires medical attention.
This means that more than 800 thousand Americans receive medical attention for dog bites, with half of that number being reported as children.
Some dogs have a history of biting, and their exasperated pet parents are left wondering what to do and how to help… how to stop this dangerous behavior. No matter the situation, dog biting should always be taken seriously.
How to Avoid a Dog Bite
If you find yourself in a situation where you may be the target of a dog attack, things can get pretty scary- for you and your dog. It’s important to try to stay calm at all times to avoid escalating the situation unnecessarily. Knowing what to do to avoid being bitten is the best way to stay safe. Here are some tips.
Treat every dog with respect. Just as you would respect another human’s personal space, never approach a dog that you don’t know – especially one in a car or a fenced in yard – without caution or permission from dog’s owner if possible.
Don’t pet a dog without allowing him to see you first. It can be helpful if you allow the dog to inspect you before touching him.
Don’t panic or make loud noises. Do not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
Check out the dog’s body movements when you first encounter him. The following are signs that a dog could be tense or preparing to attack:
If approached by an unknown dog who exhibits these behaviors, say ‘no,’ or ‘go home,’ in a firm voice and don’t turn your back on the dog.
If you get the idea that a dog might be in attack mode, don’t scream or run away, stay still, and avoid eye contact, and if the dog attacks, give him or her something, like your purse, jacket or bag and if you are knocked on the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your ears and stay still. If approached by an unknown dog, “be still like a tree.”
Stand with your side facing the dog. If you face the dog, he might feel threatened by you. Slowly raise your hands to your neck with your elbows in, and wait for the dog to move.
Tips on Handling Aggressive Dogs and Preventing Dog Fights and Bites
If you have to break up a dog fight, try using a barrier, such as a chair or spray the dogs with water. You can even throw a blanket over one or both dogs to take their mind off of the fight. The key is to keep yourself safe. Don’t use your arms or any other part of your body to come between the dogs.
Spaying and neutering decrease the risk of bite-related behaviors. Regular exercise burns off excess energy that may lead to aggressive behavior.
Remember that aggressive-type games, like tug-of-war, can develop dominance issues. Be aware if you see your dog developing dominance tendencies. Train your dog from the beginning to know basic commands, like ‘sit,’ ‘stay,’ and ‘come.’
Socialization is a key to preventing aggressive behaviors that could lead to biting incidents. The more people and other dogs that your dog is socialized with, the more comfortable he will feel. Socialize your dog early and often. Exposing your fur baby to different sensations, sounds, environments, people, and animals can help reduce the chance of him being scared and aggressive.
Keep vaccinations up-to-date, especially rabies. In some places, a dog can be put down if proof of a rabies vaccination cannot be provided.
Check out this video on how to train a puppy not to bite.
Learn how to stop your dog from nipping and chewing during play. Teaching him to play gently early on can help save you from serious problems when they are fully grown.
For tips on how to help a dog with a history of biting, check out this video below. You’ll also want to consult a professional dog trainer for personalized assistance as soon as possible if your dog continues to have a biting problem.
Please remember to be patient with your dog during the training process. Often, doggie emotions run high during this time and you may need some help from a trained professional to determine what’s motivating your dog to bite and what steps are necessary to stop the behavior.
My dogs have given me an entirely new spiritual perspective on life. I now have a genuine understanding of unconditional love and provision.