Safety First – Dog Bite Prevention

Photo courtesy of Jackie Sheppard

Sometimes it’s hard to resist wanting to pet an adorable dog, but knowing the warning signs of when a dog may bite is important. In accordance with Dog Bite Prevention Week, we want to make sure everyone understands why dogs bite and how to stay safe.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur each year in the United States, with most of the bites occurring to children and men. The CDC said, “It may surprise you to know that over half of dog-bite injuries occur at home with dogs that are familiar to us. Among children and adults, having a dog in the household is associated with a higher likelihood of being bitten than not having a dog. As the number of dogs in the home increases, so does the likelihood of being bitten. Adults with two or more dogs in the household are five times more likely to be bitten than those living without dogs at home.” We all know how much having a dog can enhance our lives, but learning how to coexist with them safely and comfortably is essential!

Per the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), dogs bite for a variety of reasons.  “Dogs bite as a reaction to something. If the dog finds itself in a stressful situation, it may bite to defend itself or its territory. Dogs can bite because they are scared or have been startled. They can bite because they feel threatened. They can bite to protect something that is valuable to them, like their puppies, their food or a toy. Dogs might bite because they aren’t feeling well. They could be sick or sore due to injury or illness and might want to be left alone.” The best way to try and prevent bites is through socializing your dog. By introducing him or her to other people and pups, this will help your dog feel more comfortable in all types of situations.

PAWS Chicago has some great tips on recognizing warning signs about when a dog is about to bite. PAWS recommends, “Watch and listen for the warnings that a dog will give you to let you know when he is upset. If his ears are laid back against his head or his legs are very stiff, he is probably warning you that he feels threatened and will protect himself if he must. If the hair on his back is standing up, that’s another warning. If a dog is growling or barking with his teeth showing, it means he is ready to bite.” If you encounter a dog giving off any of these signs, do not make any sudden movements or eye contact. Look down at the ground, count to five and then slowly walk sideways or backwards, away from the dog. Do not flap your arms or scream, as this could startle or excite the dog into biting.

For any behavior related questions or concerns, please contact your veterinarian at Blum Animal Hospital at: (773) 327-4446. For more information about preventing dog bites, click here.

Written for Blum Animal Hospital by Jackie Sheppard.