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National Dog Bite Prevention Week

by Guy Kantak on May 16, 2014 at 09:27 hrs

Next week, May 18th, is National Dog Bite Prevention Week. The CDC estimates there are nearly 5 million dog bites each year, 800,000 requiring medical attention. Every day reports of dog attacks find owners saying "he's such a sweet dog, we've never had any problems before, or we can't believe this". Today I thought I'd resurrect an old post that was removed some time ago due to a technical glitch

There are many resources online discussing ways people can protect themselves from unfriendly dogs, but dogs that bite or attack typically display related problem behavior long before a first significant incident. To address dog bites at a preventive level, owners should learn to recognize precursor behaviors that can escalate to aggression...

Food or Toy Possessiveness - Dogs that growl or snap at people while eating or playing with toys are likely to graduate to biting and other problems. Isolating the dog during mealtime or ignoring the behavior is not a solution and can mask the problem or make it worse.

Dogs that Don't Listen to Their Owners - These dogs generally lack respect for their owners, are poorly controlled, and may make poor decisions that result in injuries. Educating (training) your dog goes a long way toward helping it understand how to live well in a human world.

Play Biting - Common in puppies, this should be corrected early. Dogs over 3-4 months old that continue this behaviors don't understand that placing teeth on people is wrong. Ignoring, giving "time outs", or accepting this behavior as "just being a puppy" is setting a young dog up for failure.

Fears or Phobias - Anxiety can result in a dog that bites out of fear. Owner education, training, and confidence building can help reduce the likelihood these dogs will bite.

Dogs that Don't Like People or Other Animals - These dogs may suffer from a variety of issues, but they can all lead to bites or aggression and such behavior should be taken seriously.

Previous Bite History - Any dog that has bitten once is more likely to repeat the act. Subsequent bites often increase in severity, so any bite should be cause for concern.

Dogs that are Controlling or Dominating - Frequently dogs like this may growl, nip, or even challenge owners. They require firm and experienced direction or things can get out of hand very quickly.

Prey Kills - Many owners think nothing of a dog that kills a squirrel or rabbit. But these kills can increase a dog's prey drive, and frequently precede attacks on larger animals (and sometimes people).

Dogs that Enjoy Roaming - Whether allowed or by accident, when dogs roam (especially with other dogs), the can quickly develop high prey or pack drives. This behavior is a common theme in many news accounts of attacks on children, the disabled, and the elderly.

If you have a dog with behavioral issues, seek help! The earlier problem behaviors are addressed, the better the odds of succesful outcomes. Ignoring, or making excuses for those problems, can lead to a host of more severe issues later.