Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Dog bites are physically and emotionally traumatic and can also have serious consequences for the dog. National Dog Bite Prevention Week, the second full week of April, is a good time to learn more about dog bites.
Why do dogs bite?
Dogs bite as an instinctive response to provocation. Even friendly, tolerant dogs can bite under the wrong circumstances. A dog might bite a person in situations like these:
Which dog breeds are likely to bite?
Trick question! Any dog can bite if provoked.
Assuming that a dog is aggressive because of its breed is unfair to responsible dog owners and (in the case of breed bans) potentially unsafe for the dog. It’s even more dangerous to assume that a dog won’t bite because it looks like a breed people think of as “friendly.” It’s almost impossible to tell the breed heritage of a mixed-breed dog just by appearance anyway.
A dog’s body language and facial expressions are better indicators of bite risk than its (apparent) breed is. These cues can be subtle, but learning to tell if dogs are feeling anxious, afraid, or aggressive can help keep you safe.
Who’s at risk of being bitten?
At least half of the people bitten by dogs in the United States each year are children, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Older adults are also at higher risk. Most people with dog bites are bitten by their own dog or another dog they’re familiar with.
How can I keep myself and my kids from being bitten?
These measures can reduce the risk:
What can dog owners do?
Socialize puppies and newly adopted dogs so they’ll be comfortable with different people and new situations. Dogs who are well socialized are less likely to feel nervous or threatened when they encounter new people and unfamiliar environments. Obedience training using positive reinforcement also builds trust between dogs and their owners.
Be sure your dog’s rabies vaccination is up to date. Monitor your dog’s health; pain and illness reduce a dog’s tolerance for being touched and handled.
Don’t let your dog run free outdoors, and follow your local leash laws. If your dog is nervous around unfamiliar people, be sure he has a place to get away from visitors to your home.
Photo by Ralu Gal
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
The contents of this blog are for information only and should not substitute for advice from a veterinarian who has examined the animal. All blog content is copyrighted by Mallard Creek Animal Hospital and may not be copied, reproduced, transmitted, or distributed without permission.