May 20-26, 2012 is Dog Bite Prevention Week

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30% of children’s bites come from the family dog; another 50% come from the neighbor’s dog.

Have you ever been bitten by a dog? I’ve never been bitten badly but have been nipped by dogs over the years, usually for teasing them. With my own dog, I used to tickle the tips of his ears while he was trying to sleep – an act which frequently earned me a thoroughly disgusted stare – but that’s all.

Not all dogs are so tolerant though, and it’s important to know some do’s and don’ts of how to treat dogs for yourself, for the children in your house and neighborhood, and for the dogs. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) estimates that approximately 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs nationwide each year, and the biggest majority are children. In fact, of kids 18 years old and under, 30% of dog bites are from their family dog. Another 50% of bites are delivered courtesy of the neighbor’s dog.

So what do you do?

Here are a few tips that the AVMA provides to get you thinking about proper care and bite prevention:

  • Carefully select your pet. Puppies should not be obtained on impulse.
  • Make sure your pet is socialized as a young puppy so it feels at ease around people and other animals.
  • Don’t put your dog in a position where it feels threatened or teased.
  • Train your dog. The basic commands “sit,” “stay,” “no,” and “come” help dogs understand what is expected of them and can be incorporated into fun activities that build a bond of trust between pets and people.
  • Walk and exercise your dog regularly to keep it healthy and provide mental stimulation.
  • Avoid highly excitable games like wrestling or tug-of-war.
  • Use a leash in public to ensure you are able to control your dog.
  • Keep your dog healthy. Have your dog vaccinated against rabies and preventable infectious diseases. Parasite control and other health care are important because how your dog feels affects how it behaves.
  • Neuter your pet.
  • If you have a fenced yard, make sure the gates are secure.

With many people, young and old alike, when you see a dog, you just want to pet it. But you really need to consider the situation. If it’s a dog with an owner, ask permission before reaching out. If it’s a dog in a yard, think twice before reaching through or over the fence. If it’s a stray, consider that the dog may not be vaccinated and is probably already scared without you trying to pet it or catch it. And definitely put a stop to it if you see children teasing any dog. (myself included)

If you have questions on dog etiquette or are considering getting a dog with young children in your home, contact a veterinarian in your area to get some answers. The AVMA also offers resources for the public by clicking here. (scroll down under Useful Links) Dogs are fun and should be enjoyed by everyone. Just make sure you have the facts.

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