May 20 – 26 is Dog Bite Prevention Week but at the ARL, every week is about preventing bites. We do our best to assess the behavior of the dogs who come into the shelter and match adoptable dogs with the best families. For example, some small dogs may not be suitable for families with young children. And many strong-willed breeds like the terrier group need to have a great deal of training and leadership or else they may decide to be in charge. Of course, all dogs must be spayed and neutered. Males are especially less likely to bite if they are neutered.
We also try to educate people about dog behavior, the need for training and best practices to do the training. Puppies need to be socialized with other dogs, people, children and situations at soon as possible. Despite all of our efforts, unfortunately, dogs will bite people.
How can you prevent your dog from biting?
- Attend a dog training class, preferably with your entire family so that children learn training basics too. Never send your dog away to be trained by someone else. Training is as much about people learning good skills as dogs are being trained.
- Never allow young children to be alone with your dog, no matter how much you trust the dog.
- Teach children at a young age to respect the dog - never grab, hit, or hug the dog.
- If your dog exhibits any signs of potentially biting (warning growls, freezing and staring), seek the help from a qualified trainer or behaviorist. Don’t rely on advice from others or from TV personalities. They can often be wrong and may make the behavior worse. And most of all, do NOT punish the dog for giving warning signs. It will make the behavior worse as well.
- Be in tune with your dog and recognize any warning signals that he/she may be uncomfortable. For example, some dogs do not like to be around crowds, or may not like strangers who approach them suddenly, or may not like children. Be aware of your dog’s reactions in these situations and quickly remove your dog from any further stress.
- Always keep your dog leashed in public so that you can control your dog’s actions.
- Never encourage your dog to “protect” you or your family. Dogs cannot make the decision of who is a friend or foe.
What can you do if approached by a strange dog who looks like he/she might bite?
- Do not scream and run away. These actions only excite the dog more. Instead, “act like a tree” which means stand completely still with your hands by your side. Never raise your hands above your head – this may only entice the dog to jump up on you.
- Do not make eye contact with the dog.
- If the dog loses interest in you, slowly, slowly back away and remain silent.
- If the dog still comes at you, try to give him/her something to bite onto – a jacket, hat, purse –and slowly let go of the item and let the dog have that instead of you.
Dog bites can be prevented with a little common sense and knowledge. We can save lots of heartache for people, and dogs’ lives who must be euthanized for bites due to careless human behavior.