Tuesday, May 19, 2015

DOG BITE PREVENTION


The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), in 2013, published the most complete study of dog bite-related fatalities since the first study was conducted in the 1970s.  Based on the investigation completed, the researchers identified multiple controllable factors in these fatalities.  For many of us the situations are not surprising.

The following, according to the AVMA study, were contributing factors in dog bites.  An able-bodied person was not present to intervene in the situation.  The victim did not have a relationship with the dog.  The dog’s guardian failed to spay/neuter the animal.  The victim, because of age or physical condition, was not able to control the dog.  The dog’s guardian kept the animal as a “resident” rather than a family pet.  The guardian had previously mishandled the dog or had either abused or neglected the dog.

The National Canine Research Council (NCRC) defines “resident” dogs as those whose guardian isolates them from regular, positive human interaction.  This isolation results in behaviors that are different from a family dog.  Whereas, when a dog is actively included into the family, that dog is more likely to learn appropriate behavior through regular, positive interaction.

Dog bite-related fatalities are extremely rare.  To put it in perspective, in the United States, with a human population of over 318 million, and an owned canine population estimated at over 83 million, there were 41 confirmed cases in 2014.  However, again in the US, more than 4.7 million people were bitten by dogs.  While the majority did not result in an injury requiring treatment, approximately one-half of the bites that required medical attention involved children.  It is also essentail to note that the highest incidence of injuries occurred with children five to nine years of age. 

Knowing that children are the most common victims of dog bites, it is important not to leave a young child unsupervised with a dog.  Teaching children to be gentle, to respect the dog’s space and rest, and not to approach an unfamiliar dog can go far in preventing bites.

We also know that major contributors to bites are under socialization and improper training.  Have your dog become an integral part of the family.  Dogs are highly social and, when frequently left alone for long periods, they have a much greater chance of having behavior problems like aggression.  Begin early consistent reward-based training to effectively teach expectations and provide mental stimulation.  Gradually expose the dog to a variety of people and places so it can feel at ease.  Dogs who are distressed can become aggressive or fear-bite.  Therefore, allow the dog to work at its own speed and definitely do not force an uncomfortable situation upon it.

Be a responsible pet owner.  Be aware of your pet’s health.  Pain resulting from an illness or injury can affect behavior.  Spay or neuter your dog as soon as possible.  Multiple studies have shown that neutered dogs are less likely to bite.  Obey leash laws and do not allow your dog to roam the neighborhood.  If the dog is loose in a yard, be sure that the fencing and gates are secure.

Since dogs do not have the ability to talk, understanding their body language can help us know when something is amiss.  Dogs cannot talk to us and tell us when something is wrong.  When dogs are scared, their body and face will appear tense and rigid and they will try to look small, cowering close to the ground and tucking their tail between their legs.  They also might look slightly away, lick their lips, and yawn.  An aggressive dog will do the opposite.  They will try to look bigger.  Fur may stand up, especially along the spine.  Ears might also be erect and pushed forward.  In addition, it is important to realize a wagging tail does not necessarily mean the dog is feeling friendly. 

If interested in learning more about dog-bite prevention, both the American Veterinary Medical Association (https://www.avma.org/public/Pages/Dog-Bite-Prevention.aspx) and the ASPCA (https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/dog-bite-prevention ) websites provide helpful additional information.


Through education, the understanding of dog behavior, and the continued enforcement of anti-cruelty laws and prosecution of animal abusers the instances of dog bites can be lowered.

0 comments:

Post a Comment