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Dog Bite
And Making The World Better...

Good dogs can bite and a dog that bites isn't necessarily bad. This statement might seem outlandish until you realize the virtually all dogs are built with the physical ability to do harm (fast, strong and teeth) combine this with their emotional make-up, that they can feel fear and respond to training, and you have a recipe for potential problems. So, every dog, not matter how sweet, fuzzy, cute or small can bite if provoked.

Ignorant owners, whether intentional or not, can actually encourage, promote and/or train aggression into their otherwise well behaved dogs. Whether this gives them the sense of power or safety they crave, it typically ultimately becomes unwise and dangerous for everyone, including the dog.

It's not unusual for the US to see a million dog bites a year resulting in visits to the local hospital. Several will die.

Then there are all those people who get bitten that don't go to the doctor. Overall, it's estimated to be over 4 million people are year who are bitten and the majority of those are children.

Protecting your dog, your home and those who come in contact with you doesn't have to be a difficult proposition. A few tips will help you become one of those responsible homes that helps end this program and redefine how the world potentially sees dog ownership.

First, be willing to research your selection. Everything from breed, to age, to gender to history can influence the dog's suitability in your family. Some types of dogs are more likely to have strong prey drives (like herding dogs), others might be extremely intelligent and opportunistic, others might be inclined to be "mouthy", while none of these traits are more likely to lead to aggression from a dog, all of them have particular needs in handling and training to prevent these tendencies from becoming increasingly anxious or territorial. Once a dog finds that aggression is a successful way of dealing with uncomfortable situations (growling if someone comes near their food, or when they are asked to get off the couch) it will typically escalate over time to full blown aggression unless the family understands the need for proper handling.

If you get to that point, finding a knowledgable trainer or behaviorist is critical to help you help your dog find other ways of dealing with issues. Veterinarians are exceptional resources for the health and well-being of your dog, but typically they have little to no training (and very little time for it) in behavior or training. The options they present, like calming medications or neutering, can be helpful and figure as a part of a corrective plan, but these will not solve the behavior issue.

The best plan is to commit to learning enough to prevent problems from arising. Socialization and all its aspects, which include basic manners, housetraining and experiencing the world in a completely positive way, provides your dog with the skills needed to live life as a happy and well-adjusted dog. While such a dog can still be provoked to the point of aggression, a well socialized dog will be slow to react and will seek alternatives (like getting away from the person that is worrying it). Clearly, the person who commits to having a well-socialized dog will also gladly supervise the interaction of their dog with children and others. Socialization can be guided by a trainer as part of a class like puppy kindergarten, careful study can help a devoted owner to create an effective socialization plan, and DigitalDog's Guide to Socialization , an online class that can be pursued at the dog and their person's own pace with the added support of email for questions and challenges. While this program can be used very successfully in the majority of cases, it would be preferable for the novice dog owner to take advantage of a local class and the skill of a trainer that could observe them personally.

Keeping a dog healthy is also critical. Like people, a dog's mood is influenced by how they feel. An ear infection or injury, or a number of other issues even diarrhea can make a dog cranky and irritable around those who might want to play or come too close.

Spaying and neutering is critical to controlling unwanted aggression. Intact males will have more testosterone in their systems. This hormone will increase any territorialism as well as a quicker temper than would otherwise exist. Intact females can be completely reliable throughout most of the year but will typically be more difficult during their season and afterward even if they are not pregnant. Additionally, this procedure will address other issues like marking (intact dogs are far more likely to mark inside and outside), unwanted pregnancy and the discharge of a female during estrus.

A large part of having a well-adjusted pet includes spending time with them. Much like people, dogs enjoy a variety in their life and look forward to certain activities with their people, whether it is a regular walk, jog or trip to the park, make a point of including your dog in activities you can enjoy together. Additionally, this develops your relationship with them which helps them be more relaxed and confident.

Running at large creates a number of issues as dogs cannot gauge hazard. Whether by injury or illness, dogs are more likely to have negative experiences while at large. This can lead to a fearful dog which is more likely to bite. Additionally, by keeping your dog leashed and protecting him/her, you are also available to supervise any interactions your dog might have with others.

Learning the signs of tension in your dog such as raising of the hair over the neck and back, hard straight tail (usually up) from an angry dog, by contrast, the scared or anxious dog might avoid eye contact, hide behind you and other more "slinking" behaviors. By reading these signs you will be able to prevent potentially dangerous situations and turn them into training opportunities.

Protecting yourself (and your family) from being bitten involves a few common sense ideas.

- Always greet a strange dog casually. Avoid eye contact, talking to the dog or reaching out to touch the dog, let the dog come to you. Instruct your children to do the same. Most bites are not the result of a dog pursuing someone but rather someone attempting to do something to the dog that the dog is uncomfortable with. This approach acknowledges the dog's personal space and allows them to come to terms with meeting people as their confidence allows.

- NEVER leave a child or stranger along with a dog.

- Never try to pet a dog that is in a car. Many dogs are protective and territorial over their vehicle.

- Be alert to approaching people or dangerous situations.

- Teach your children the points outlined here. To be respectful and careful around dogs, not to approach unknown dogs, always to ask permission (of you or another adult)prior to petting a dog.

- Avoid running and yelling around dogs. Both of these behaviors can heighten a dog's anxiety or excitement. Many dogs, with a strong prey drive, would also be inclined to chase instinctively.

- The old adage was right. Let sleeping dogs lie. For that matter, it's also advisable to give them their space when eating, caring for puppies or just seeking time of their own. A crate is a great option since it allows the dog this element of safety and privacy in a way that can be easily signalled to even children who are instructed to leave the dog alone if they are in the crate.

- Worst case, if you are threatened by a dog, do not scream. Avoid eye contact and don't speak. Standing still is often the best choice but if you must move, try to move slowly and back away. Avoid turning your back on the dog. Do NOT run. Absolute worst case, if you are knocked to the ground, curl into a fetal position and use your arms to protect your head.
The above will assist in the majority of cases, but mostly keeping in mind how dogs respond to a running person (and that they can easily outrun you) and aware of your specific circumstances, will provide the best options out of a potential issue. This advice is not offered as a guarantee of safety. As previously suggested, the best protection is awareness and prevention of such a scenario.

In Case of Bite

Many bites are not only preventable but they can also be perfectly understandable (a dog reacting to being stepped on or startled awake, for example). Even in these situations it is important to take responsibility.

First, restrain your dog and get them away from the scene. Crating or putting them inside or another room is often a best choice.

Check the injury. Wash the wound(s) thoroughly with water, using betadine or other antibiotic solutions can be beneficial as well. A doctor can help assess the possibility of rabies or other infections. If emergency assistance is needed, call 911.

Be ready to provide contact information including your name, address and your dog's vet records including up-to-date rabies vaccination (required by law!).

Quarantining your dog may be necessary. If a risk of rabies exists, the authorities may euthanize your dog for testing purposes. This should help you recognize how critical it is to keep your dog's rabies vaccination up to date! Additionally the person who was bitten may need to undergo rabies treatment which is painful and uncomfortable.

Report the bite to your insurance company. While your coverage was in place, you are likely protected but after the claim many companies will cancel your coverage due to your ownership of a "dangerous dog", this also leaves you vulnerable to a variety of other problems.

You locality may have other requirements, be prepared to fulfill them.

Consult your local shelter, veterinarian, boarding facility and/or professional groomer to find an exceptional trainer/behaviorist to help prevent such occurences in the future.

If you are bitten, go through the same steps and be prepared to offer as much information about the dog that bit you as possible.

Dogs add incredible benefits to our lives. From Search and Rescue to Pet Therapy and beloved companions for the walk in the woods, the vast majority of dogs live their lives as devoted and friendly companions twenty four hours a day and seven days a week. It is the position of DigitalDog that very few bites take place that are not preventable. Protecting yourself also protects the dogs around you. Being aware, caring for your own dog responsibly and teaching your children will typically let your entire family live a life that is more joyful because of the inclusion of dogs in your life and home. If this has been helpful or if you have suggestions to improve it, please write us at

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