May 19th is the beginning of Dog Bite Prevention Week, and we’d like to take this opportunity to add onto our dog bite prevention blog from last year and update some statistics. Getting bitten by a dog is probably not something you think about ordinarily. But, in reality, dog bites occur more frequently than you may believe, and in some cases, they are fatal.
When we look to our friends and family, I’m sure that we all know at least one person who has experienced a dog bite, or at least, has encountered an aggressive dog. While it is up to us as owners to train and socialize our dogs, we have to remember that they are still animals with instincts that, at times, they cannot control.
By understanding dog behavior, and knowing how to react, a dog bite may be preventable. To keep ourselves and our loved ones safe (especially children) it is important to know how to read basic dog body language and the best way to react to it.
First, here are the latest numbers regarding dog bites and dog bite casualties in the United States:
- Approximately 4.7 million dog bites occur each year in the United States
- Almost 800,000 of these dog bites need medical attention
- In 2012, 38 fatal dog attacks occurred, of these deaths 50% were adults (ages 21 and older) and 50% were children (ages 8 and under)
- This number has increased by 7 more deaths since 2011
- 15 of the 19 children that were killed were ages 2 and under
- Males were more often victims than females at 61%
- 82% of these fatalities occurred on the dog owner’s property
- 5% of these fatalities involved a tethered dog
- California and North Carolina led these statistics with 4 deaths each in 2012, 75% of the deaths in California occurring in San Diego County
- 92% of all fatal dog attacks are from male dogs, 94% of these males dogs were intact (not neutered)
What do these statistics show? Well, for one, a dog bite inflicted on a child under the age of two is more likely to be fatal. 65% of bites involving children occur to the head and neck and unsupervised newborns are 370 times more likely to be attacked by a dog. As adults, we can better protect ourselves, and are often strong enough to withstand a dog bite; however, a child is not.
Why are these numbers so high with children? It isn’t that dogs enjoy biting the little ones, more so, it’s that children don’t know how they should behave around dogs. Here are some rules that every child should know.
- Don’t treat a dog “badly” (don’t pull fur, tails, ears, don’t slap or make fast hand movements near a dog’s face)
- Don’t approach a dog you don’t know
- Don’t stand over a dog and bend down
- Be calm when handling a dog, give them space, let them come to you
- Don’t bother a dog when they are busy (eating, playing with a toy)
- If an unknown dog approaches you, be still, do not run
What could cause a dog to attack?
Dog possessiveness (Possessive Aggression)
- A dog is very possessive of what they believe to be theirs, which is why we see the most frequent attacks happening on the dog owner’s property
Dog is shy or fearful (Defensive or Fear Aggression)
- Many dogs just have a fearful disposition and are weary of new people and places
- It can also be a sudden fear, such as being snuck up on or startled
- A dog in pain
Mother with puppies (Maternal Aggression or Protective Aggression – can occur with humans in place of puppies)
- Cautiously approach a young puppy when it is around its mother
- Watch out for aggressive body language. A dog will let you know when you are getting too close
Prey or Chase Drive (more prevalent in certain breeds)
- This instinct is triggered by movement, such as running or cycling. Just like when we play fetch with a dog, the dog sees the ball as prey and runs to catch it. The same goes for a human in motion.
So, now that we know the causes, how can we tell when a dog is ready to snap? Dog bites are almost always preceded by specific body language:
- Ears pinned back
- Tail erect or between the legs showing dominance or fear
- Visibility of the whites in their eyes
- The fur along their back (hackles) may stand up
- Lifting their lips and showing teeth (yawning is also a way dogs show their teeth and can be a sign of anxiety and agitation)
- Non-social and “stand-offish” behavior (backing away or trying to avoid you)
Now that you know the major warning signs, and the causes, what do you do if you are approached by an aggressive dog?
- Stay calm, dogs can sense stress
- Avoid direct eye contact, stand slightly sideways with your hands at your sides, keep the dog in your peripheral vision
- Remain calm, yet assertive, claim your space. If you have a large object on you, place it out in front of you. This makes you appear larger, and more in charge of your surrounding area.
- Remain in this calm, assertive state, show the dog that you are not afraid
- When the dog feels that you are not threatening, they will most likely lose interest
Be sure to check out last year’s post for even more information on dog bite prevention and awareness. Do you have any tips to share? Leave them in the comments below.