dog bite prevention

Think your dog won’t bite? Think again. The Center for Disease Control estimates that about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year.  Half of those numbers belong to kids. Staggering, isn’t it? It’s summer time, more dogs are outside, and more people are interacting with dogs as it’s the social time of year.  This week is National Dog Bite Awareness Week, and the effort is backed by the U.S. Postal Service.  The American Humane Association reports that 66% of bites among children occur to the head and neck. Here are nine things you can do to prevent a dog bite…even if you don’t own a dog.

(1) Train Your Children: Over and over and over again

Always ask the dog’s guardian for permission before approaching and interacting with a dog. Never reach into a car window to touch a dog since some dogs will behave aggressively in small, enclosed spaces. Never approach a dog that is behind a fence or tied up, whether in a yard or outside a shop. The dog may feel trapped and react defensively. Think like the dog. You also don’t know that dog’s life and circumstances. Teach kids how to behave around dogs. Teach them not to approach, touch or play with any dog who’s sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy or bone, or caring for puppies. Animals are more likely to bite if they’re startled, frightened or caring for young.
Just this weekend, while walking my dog past a neighborhood park, two little girls came screaming up to my dog, hands flailing, one yelling “puppy puppy.” They were no more than 5 years of age. I have a small dog who also has his Canine Good Citizen papers, but I take no chances. I picked my dog up and nicely told the girls to slow down. Their mom showed about about three minutes later, angry that the kids had taken off. I understand it is hard to watch your kids at all times, but I must do this for my dog. I am not anti-kid; I am pro-dog and pro safety so that there are no accidents.
I explained to the mom what her kids did and showed the two little girls the proper way to approach a dog. The mom did not seem happy but my role is to educate and help children avoid harm.
cute dog

Prevent your dog from biting by NEVER EVER EVER HITTING him or her. You teach a dog that harm is to be accepted from you. Period. This mentality is old school, outdated, ineffective, and wrong. Socialize your puppy so aggression does not form. Puppies go through a period of development, typically between 7-16 weeks of age, where they tend to be highly social and out-going. If they experience all sorts of people (different ages, races, genders, etc) along with being around other animals, they are less likely to be startled to bite at other times in their life. Seek the help of an animal trainer or puppy kindergarten class.

If your dog is already an adult or if you’ve adopted a mature dog, it’s still crucial to socialize him throughout his life. In addition to walking the dog and taking him places with you, continue with his obedience training so he learns good manners and knows how to behave when he’s around people. Please read more about Never Hitting Your Dog here.

Dog bite laws vary by state so be aware.Visit  ANIMAL LAW INFO

(3) Know A Dog’s Body Language:

dog bites

(4) If You See a Loose Dog in Public

Over the past five years, I’ve rescued 12 dogs found roaming the streets. How I haven’t been bitten (well at least yet) is in following the rules I was taught. If you encounter a loose dog on the street, call Animal Control or whomever is the authority in your area. If the dog is not super friendly to you, be cautious in your approach. Speak to the dog in a friendly manner. If the dog comes up to you, hold your hand in the shape of a fist and extend it for the dog to sniff. Then stroke him on the neck, under the chin. Avoid reaching over his head or looming over him. If the dog does not come up to you, follow the dog at a comfortable pace. There have been times I’ve coaxed lost dogs into the foyer of my house and then shut the door. At least I was able to lure them and not have to worry about being bitten.

FACT: Did you know that kids are the No. 1 victims of dog bites. Surprisingly, the AVMA says most dog bites happen in the course of everyday activities with familiar dogs. Seniors are the second most common dog bite victims.

dog bite prevention
Courtesy AVMA

(5) Know Why Dogs Bite

This might be the single most important piece of information you can remember from this article: There are a variety of reasons dogs bite, and sometimes they are not the most obvious reasons. Dogs bite when they are afraid, feel threatened, get excited, are at play, have been trained to be aggressive, are being protective with food or treats, or are in pain or annoyed.

(6) Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

It’s true: Sleeping dogs are best left alone. When a dog is startled, he may bite out of disorientation, not even realizing who startled him. So don’t do it. If your dog is sleeping, gently call his name. If he is elderly and his hearing might be compromised, have a vet check him out.

dogs sleep

(7) Take Advice from the Experts

Laurie C. Williams CPDT-KA is a trainer and behavior consultant as well as the owner of Pup ‘N Iron Canine Fitness & Learning Center in Fredericksburg, Virginia. She has been training dogs for years and has a plethora of experience in recognizing if a dog will bite. She also trains her clients to prevent their own dogs from biting. She shares these tips to prevent dog bites:

dog bite prevention tips

(8) Mail Carrier Behavior

Think about the mailman: He or she crosses a threshold: Carrier comes onto said property, dog barks to let mail carrier he or she needs to back off. Mail carrier leaves. In the dog’s eye, he did his job. If a letter carrier delivers mail or packages to your front door, ensure your dog is  another room and close that door before opening the front door. Dogs have been known to burst through screen doors or plate-glass windows to get at people who come onto their property.

If you not home when the mail is delivered, be sure the dog does not have access to a screened in window nor a glass window. By law, if a carrier feels threatened by a vicious dog or if a dog is running loose, the owner may be asked to pick up the mail at the post office until the carrier is assured the pet has been restrained. If the dog is roaming the neighborhood, the pet owner’s neighbors may be asked to pick up their mail at the post office as well.


(9) Canine Good Citizen Training

Even if you are not into titles, ribbons, and awards for your dog, a good way to enhance the relationship you have with your dog as well as teach basic good behavior is by taking the Canine Good Citizen training. Read more about how to obtain the CGC title, or at the very least, train your dog with the CGC tenets here.

As a final note, to date I have never been bitten by a dog, but I have had two bites from children occur in my life.


Though National Dog Bite Prevention Week happens in May, dog bites are commonplace year round.

Have you ever had a dog bite happen to you or someone you know? Tell me about it in the comments

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