Did you know…
….more than 4.5 million Americans are bitten every year by a dog and 83% are children?
….50% of all U.S. children will be bitten by a dog before their 12th birthday?
….Each year 800,000 bite injuries are severe enough to require medical attention?
….If you Google “Orange County dog bite prevention” you will get pages of attorneys and law offices ready to sue for dog bite injuries?
Whether you own a dog or not, these statistics affect you in one way or another. They also point out one major problem in the U.S. and it is a lack of dog bite prevention education and responsible dog ownership.
To raise awareness for this perpetual public health problem, the U.S. Postal Service and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) joined forces along with other organizations to promote National Dog Bite Prevention Week during the third week of May each year. And although this week has brought about an increase in awareness, there are still dog bites happening every day, which only demonstrate the need for greater awareness and education efforts nationwide.
The beginning of your basic education must first start with some sort of understanding of dogs.
“Even the gentlest dog, if it is physically or mentally unhealthy, is in pain, feels threatened, or is protecting its food or a favorite toy, can bite,” Dr. Gail C. Golab, director of the AVMA’s Animal Welfare Division said. “Not only is it important to understand how dogs behave, it is important to understand how our behavior may be interpreted by a dog. To prevent dog bites, we need to find a common language. Finding that common language is the focus of effective dog bite prevention educational efforts.”
According to the ASPCA, “The vast majority of dog bites are from a dog known to the child—his or her own pet, a neighbor's or friends.” A common misconception among people is that because they are around a certain dog a lot they assume that dog must like and feel comfortable around them. But dogs have their own rules of etiquette and they give lots of body language they people don't pick up on, which leads to an "out of the blue" dog bite. And because children are so close to the dog’s size, their bites are usually worse on the face or neck.
Dog bites are a problem for children and adults alike. So what can you do to avoid being bitten by the next dog you encounter?
The Proper Way to greet a dog
When meeting or greeting an unfamiliar dog, first ask the owner if the dog is friendly and then ask for permission to pet the dog. You should then ask the dog for permission to pet him or her but letting the dog sniff the back of your hand before petting the animal. Always pet a new dog under the chin, on the shoulder, or on the chest, but never on their head first. A dog may misinterpret a person leaning over them as a dominant behavior and feel threatened.
Here are basic tips put together by the U.S. Postal Service and the ASPCA to avoid being bitten by a dog:
· Don’t run past or away from a dog. The dog’s natural instinct is to chase and catch prey.
· If a dog threatens you, don’t scream. Avoid eye contact because dogs interpret this as a challenge. Try to remain motionless until the dog leaves, then back away slowly until the dog is out of sight.
· Don’t approach a strange dog, especially one that’s tethered or confined.
· Do not tease a dog behind a fence or tethered in a yard.
· Do not touch or play with a dog that is eating or sleeping.
· If you believe a dog is about to attack you, try to place something between yourself and the dog, such as a backpack or a bicycle. Otherwise, you should stand still “Like a tree trunk” with your arms crossed over your chest (closed fists). If you or your child should fall to the ground, you should curl into a ball, with your knees to your chest and your fingers interlocked covering the back of your neck. If you stay still, the dog will most likely sniff you, loose interest and leave you alone.