As National Dog Bite Prevention Week (May 15-21) winds down, it’s important to remember that we can all help prevent dog bites. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), some of the critical steps include properly socializing your pet and teaching your children how to interact with dogs.
Socialization, or when a puppy is introduced to new people, places and locations, should begin between 3 and 14 weeks of age. AVMA recommends that a plan be developed for the different environments that will be a part of your new dog’s life. Once your puppy comes home, if you live in a city, slowly introduce your dog to situations with people and traffic. You can also carefully expose your pet to people wearing hats, carrying umbrellas, or holding other everyday objects that could be perceived as a threat. Don’t forget: make sure you dog is fully vaccinated before he or she is exposed to areas with a high likelihood of unvaccinated dogs.
If you have adopted an older dog and are unsure of his or her socialization history, take time to bond with your pet and get to learn their temperament before introducing your dog to a whole new array of experiences.
Learn the Signs
A dog can display physical indications that they are upset or about to bite. Some of the obvious actions include barking or growling, but there are also some unexpected signs. If a dog pricks up or flattens his or her ears, tenses up or stares at a person, or even wags their tail or rolls over to expose their belly, the dog may be fearful or stressed.
Teach Your Children How to Interact with Dogs
It is also important to teach your children how to approach and pet a dog. This includes instructing your child to always ask the owner before petting an animal, even if they know the dog, and to pet gently and avoid yelling or sudden movements. Remember to avoid touching a dog if it is sleeping or eating, and let the dog be alone in its crate or bed – we all appreciate having some alone time!
Whether you just brought a puppy home or your child loves to say “hi” to dogs in the neighborhood, we can all play a role in preventing dog bites.