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(207) 846-6515 H
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(207) 846-6515

BEHAVIOR: DOG BITE PREVENTION

YVCipedia BEHAVIOR
DOG BITE PREVENTION

While we certainly see dogs as our dearest companions and members of our families, it is important to remember that they are dogs. Their language is different from ours. What is intended as a loving hug from a child might be perceived as a threat, and reaching to take something from a dog might be a serious insult to the dog’s sense of ownership. 

Dog bites are common, and the vast majority of them are inflicted by dogs that live in the same household with the person that is bitten. Many bites are delivered by dogs that are considered to be friendly by everyone that knows them. According to the CDC:
    - about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year
    - 20% of those bitten - about 885,000 people - require medical care
    - in 2006 31,000 people had reconstructive surgery as a result of dog bites
    - children, especially those 5 to 9 years old, are the most common victims

The good news is that dog bites are very preventable:

Dog breeds with a reputation for aggression and biting, including Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Chows, herding dogs, and several other breeds, have the reputation because they deserve it. This is not intended as a general disparagement  of these breeds; the simple truth is that they are more likely to bite than other breeds. (We commonly hear from owners, breeders, and other sources that an individual dog of one of these breeds, or that the entire breed, is calm, friendly, would never bite and is misunderstood. Our statement is not intended as an insult to any particular dog or breed, and it is not a matter of opinion: it is a fact that dogs of these breeds are more dangerous and more likely to bite than others.) 

Dogs of any breed are capable of biting. Even the most trusted pet can be placed in a situation where a serious bite can occur. 

If you are thinking of getting a dog:
    - consult with your veterinarian to learn what breeds of dogs are the best fit for
          your household
    - dogs with any history of aggression and dogs of breeds with a reputation for
          aggression are not suitable for households with children
    -  be sensitive to cues that a child is fearful or apprehensive about dogs and respect
          the child’s feelings, and do not get a dog in order to “teach the child not to
          be afraid”
     - spend time with a dog before buying or adopting it; if the dog’s mother and father
           are available, get to know them as well 

When you get a dog:
   - spay or neuter the dog
   - do not play aggressive games, like wrestling or tug-of-war
   - properly train and socialize the dog
   - if you notice any aggressive tendencies seek professional advice immediately;
         your veterinarian is your most reliable resource

DON’T
    - leave infants, toddlers or young children alone with any dog no matter how
          friendly it is
    - pet, touch, nudge, hug, or kiss a dog that is resting or sleeping
    - hug or kiss a dog that is not your own
    - try to move a dog by pulling it’s collar or scruff
    - try to pet or touch a dog while it is chewing on a toy, bone, or other object
    - reach to remove food, toys or other objects from a dog; if it is necessary to
          remove an object, trade by offering the dog some irresistible food
    - corner a dog to clip on a leash, give it medicine, groom, or even pet it
    - scare or physically punish a dog; a dog that is feeling threatened or frightened
          is more likely to bite

Many issues can be addressed by basic obedience training and/or environmental or management changes. If, however, your dog is significantly fearful or has shown growling, snapping, or biting behavior, THE SITUATION WILL NOT RESOLVE ON IT’S OWN. Talk with your veterinarian for help and recommendations.

How to read a dog: You might be surprised to learn that items in the following list are potential signals of stress or fear, and could indicate that a bite is imminent - a wagging tail does not necessarily mean a happy dog!
    - yawning
    - rolling over on it’s back
    - lowering it’s head
    - backing up
    - wagging it’s tail stiffly
    - licking it’s lips
    - lifting a front leg
    - sitting

Yarmouth Veterinary Center
2013

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