Preventing Dog Bites

Pets, such as dogs and cats, have become increasingly more commonplace in American households. Today, there are over 163 million dogs and cats that are living in our homes as integral parts of our families. Having pets in a family helps teach young children how to be responsible, how to care for another living being, and for some it helps them to open up emotionally having a pet show unconditional love. With the benefits of having a family dog, there comes a downside. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 80% of dog bites to children under the age of 18 are inflicted by a family dog or a neighbor’s dog. There are an estimated 4 million people bitten by dogs each year. Most bites are nonfatal and don’t inflict much more than a Band-Aid wound.


Within the past year there have been many reported incidents of dog attacks or maulings that were inflated by the media. There are dog bites that occur everyday that are never reported, but it is only the rare severe attacks by pit bulls that seem to grab the media’s attention. Now don’t get me wrong, pit bulls can be a dangerous breed, however, they are by far not the only breed of dog out there that can be dangerous. Any breed of dog, no matter the size, can be dangerous or overly protective if it is not socialized or trained properly. There are ways that both dog owners and non-dog owners can reduce the chances of a bite or attack from occurring and that is what I will provide hereafter.

The dog owner is the one person who can significantly reduce the risks. Here are a few suggestions to help:
  • Spay or neuter your dog. Having this simple procedure done reduces your dog’s desire to roam and possibly fight with other dogs. Most dog bites occur by unaltered males. A spayed / neutered dog is much less likely to bite.
  • Socialize your dog. Slowly introduce your dog to many different types of people, dogs, and situations so that they are not as nervous or frightened under normal circumstances. Try going to a dog park or enrolling in dog day care. Do not leave your dog alone outside for long periods of time as this eventually causes the dog to fear people and lead to other more destructive or dangerous behavior problems.
  • Train your dog. This is a very crucial and overlooked part of dog ownership. Not only is this an excellent way to socialize your dog but he or she also learns proper training techniques. It is important that every member of the family is involved in this process. Even if you end up going through just basic obedience, you will definitely notice your dog is easier to handle and will respond to your commands.
  • Be a responsible dog owner. Provide regular veterinary care, including rabies vaccinations to ensure your pet is healthy. Don’t allow your dog to roam. Before you let your dog out in the yard make sure all gates are securely closed. Check your fence periodically for any openings or spots where your dog can possibly escape the yard. Just remember it is not the dog’s fault if it leaves the yard through an open gate or faulty fence, it is your responsibility to make sure everything is safe. Dogs who are well-socialized and supervised are less likely to bite.
  • Be cautious. Until you learn your dog’s personality and tendencies, be cautious when he or she is in a new situation. For example, if your dog overreacts to visitors of any kind keep him in another room. If your dog is fearful in large crowds then leave him at home. This is where proper training and socialization will greatly benefit you, your family, and your pet.


For those of you who are just out walking or out for a jog and a strange dog approaches you or you spot a dog running in your direction, there are some basic guidelines to adhere. They are as follows:
  • Stop. Stop moving to eliminate the chase instinct in a dog. Also, try firmly saying "no", "sit", or "go home."
  • Avoid direct eye contact. Some dogs feel threatened or challenged if they are engaged in a stare-down with you.
  • Don’t scream. Using a firm tone of voice is better than a shrill scream which may alert the dog that you are wounded prey.
  • Keep arms at your side. Sometimes all a dog wants to do is check you out by smelling. If you stand still the dog may quickly lose interest in you and leave.
  • Divert attention. If you have a water bottle or jacket, etc. try throwing it at a growling or lunging dog. This may distract the dog enough for you to get away.
  • Back away. Try backing slowly away from the dog and see their reaction. Never turn your back because they will think they should chase you.
If a dog is going to attack, it will do it immediately without hesitation. Unless you know a dog is being protective of its territory / home when approaching you, a dog will often approach you just to investigate you. Dog owners should remember that their dog(s) should be on a leash at all times once away from their property. More responsible dog owners will help reduce the chances of dog bites / attacks outside the home. Hopefully these tips will help both dog owners and those out for a leisurely walk, etc. be less likely to have a bad encounter.

For further information, feel free to contact Animal Control Officer J. Copley at 847-588-6508.