During the second full week of April each year, National Dog Bite Prevention Week focuses on educating people about preventing dog bites.
Dogs and dog owners are more common than ever. Millions of dogs were adopted during the pandemic, increasing the number of dogs living in U.S. households to approximately 85 million. Today, nearly forty percent of U.S. households have a dog.
So, what are the odds of getting bit? Roughly 1 in 73. More than 800,000 people are treated for dog bites every year; many of these patients are children.
In addition to potential injuries, dog bites can put pet owners at significant financial risk. According to the Insurance Information Institute, liability claims related to dog bites and other dog-related injuries cost homeowners $882 million in 2021.
Dog-bite prevention isn’t just for dog owners, it’s for everyone. Because even if you don’t own a dog, you probably know someone who does. The following information can help you and your family stay safe around dogs.
WAYS TO PREVENT DOG BITES
Prepare for Responsible Pet Ownership.
Owning a dog (or any pet) is a major commitment involving your finances, emotions, and your lifestyle. A few considerations that can help dog owners mitigate bite risk include:
- Carefully selecting the dog/dog breed that's right for you or your family
- Proper training for YOU and your dog
- Regular exercise
- Neutering or spaying your dog
- Annual vet visits; and
- Following all dog-related laws (i.e., leash laws, waste disposal, etc.)
Educate Yourself and Others.
To help make interactions with dogs safer, aim for greater awareness of how dogs communicate their emotions. For example, did you know dogs yawn when they’re stressed? Dogs use posture, facial expressions, and other body language to communicate. CLICK HERE to learn more about decoding dog communication.
If your dog shows aggressive behavior towards anyone, don’t wait to seek professional help. Consult your veterinarian, a certified trainer, or behaviorist for recommendations.
Avoid Risky Situations.
Be cautious and avoid interacting with a dog if:
- The dog isn’t with its owner
- The owner doesn’t give permission to pet the dog
- The dog appears sick or injured
- The dog is lip licking or tongue flicking
- The dog appears to be hiding or seeking time alone
Remember, even if you don’t own a dog, you or your children are likely to encounter a four-legged pet at the park or at a friend’s house. Educate yourself and your children about how—or whether—to approach a dog, and what to do in the event of a dog bite.
Our companion dogs are ultimately our responsibility, and so are their actions. By keeping them safe and happy, we can keep people safe as well.