The dog days of summer are well behind us, but dog safety is always in season. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, dogs reside in approximately one in three U.S. households – including mine. With help from Angela Speed, VP of Communications with the Wisconsin Humane Society, here are simple strategies to help protect loved ones (dogs included), and keep interactions between humans and dogs safe and positive.
Preventing Your Dog from Biting
- Socialize and exercise your dog. Provide opportunities for positive and enjoyable interactions with other dogs and people. A well socialized, exercised dog will be much more adaptable to the stress of new people and new situations.
- Train your dog. Although training may be most impactful when dogs are puppies, continued training not only exercises their minds, but also reinforces desired behaviors.
- Supervise your dog, especially among children, as children may lack judgment about appropriate behavior around a dog.
- Spay or neuter your dog. Dogs that are spayed or neutered are less likely to bite.
Preventing a Dog from Biting You
- Avoidance. Don’t engage dogs you don’t know.
- Understand dog instincts. Although dogs are domesticated, basic instincts and individual personalities guide their behavior. Recognize that some dogs are territorial and like to govern their own space.
- Pay attention to body language of the dog. For example, tails are a keen indicator of a dog’s disposition. A lower tail may indicate fearful behavior; an erect tail indicates a more aroused state. Is their mouth a friendly open-mouthed smile or are their ears up and teeth bared? For more on canine body language, visit the ASPCA’s Canine Body Language Tips.
Dog Safety While Abroad
Rabies can be present in nearly all parts of the world. Travelers, especially students studying abroad, should be aware of the risk and exercise safety. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides excellent guidance.
If a Dog Bite Occurs
The vast majority of dog bites are from a dog known to a person. If your dog shows aggressive behavior, even if no injury results, seek professional help from a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB), veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB), or qualified Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT).
Requirements for reporting dog bites vary by municipality. Contact your local health department for guidelines on reporting animal bites and what information they require for reporting (animal info, owner info, rabies license #, etc.). Seek medical attention if needed or in case of an emergency, call 9-1-1.
For More Information
Advocacy groups, such as your local Humane Society and the American Kennel Club, are knowledgeable resources on dog bite prevention. Being educated on safe dog ownership, and having a strategy to operate in a dog-populated world, can help keep interactions positive and safe, and preserve their status as our furry best friends.
Terese A. Shelledy is a Senior Risk Consultant with Chubb’s Risk Consulting Group. A lifelong “dog person,” Terese has 27 years industry experience, including risk evaluations of homes with dogs and other family pets.