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Home Pet owners Dog bite prevention – American Veterinary Medical Association

Any dog can bite: big or small, male or female, young or old. Even the cuddliest, fuzziest, sweetest pet can bite if provoked. Remember, it is not a dog’s breed that determines whether it will bite, but rather the dog’s individual history and behavior.
From nips to full-blown attacks, dog bites are a serious problem. Hundreds of thousands of people in the United States seek medical attention for dog bites each year. The number of recorded dog bite injuries is significantly higher in children than adults. The elderly and home service providers such as mail carriers and meter readers are also high on the list of frequent dog bite victims.
Fortunately, there are several things we can do to prevent dog bites.
Dogs bite for a variety of reasons, but most commonly as a reaction to something. If the dog finds itself in a stressful situation, it may bite to defend itself or its territory. Dogs can bite because they are scared or have been startled. They can bite because they feel threatened. They can bite to protect something that is valuable to them, like their puppies, their food or a toy.
Dogs might bite because they aren’t feeling well. They could be sick or sore due to injury or illness and might want to be left alone. Dogs also might nip and bite during play. Even though nipping during play might be fun for the dog, it can be dangerous for people. It’s a good idea to avoid wrestling or playing tug-of-war with your dog. These types of activities can make your dog overly excited, which may lead to a nip or a bite.
National Dog Bite Prevention Week® takes place during the second full week of April each year, and focuses on educating people about preventing dog bites. Read up on dog bite prevention tips, and use the #PreventDogBites hashtag to share dog bite prevention information durnig the week.
National Dog Bite Prevention Week® is a project of the National Dog Bite Prevention Week® Coalition.​​​
Although media reports and rumors often give the impression that certain breeds of dog are more likely to bite, there is little scientific evidence to support those claims. It is more important to focus on things that we know increase the chance of a bite occurring.
Carefully select your pet. Don’t get a puppy on impulse. Before and after selection, your veterinarian is your best source for information about behavior, health and suitability.
Socialize your pet so he/she feels at ease around people and other animals. Gradually expose your puppy to a variety of situations under controlled circumstances; continue that exposure on a regular basis as your dog gets older. Don’t put your dog in a position where he/she feels threatened or teased.
Take extra care with young children. If you have a dog and young children, always supervise their interaction with dogs, including your own dogs. Carefully manage the introduction of a child or a new dog to your household. Consider delaying acquiring a new dog until your children are over the age of four. 
Train your dog. The basic commands “sit,” “stay,” “no,” and “come” can be incorporated into fun activities that build a bond of obedience and trust between pets and people. Avoid highly excitable games like wrestling or tug-of-war. Use a leash in public to ensure you are able to control your dog.
Keep your dog healthy. Have your dog vaccinated against rabies and preventable infectious diseases. Parasite control and overall health care are important because how your dog feels directly affects how it behaves. Dogs in pain are more likely to bite, so have painful conditions such as arthritis, or injuries addressed by your veterinarian. 
Be a responsible pet owner. Obey leash laws. If you have a fenced yard, make sure the gates are secure. Walk and exercise your dog regularly to keep it healthy and provide mental stimulation. Studies of dog bite events suggest that it may be beneficial to spay or neuter your dog; discuss these procedures with your veterinarian.
Be alert. Recognize when your dog is stressed, uncomfortable, or showing signs of aggression, and be prepared to prevent escalation of the situation. Remove your dog from situations that could increase the risk of biting. If your dog shows signs of fear or aggression that seem unprovoked or potentially dangerous, consult a veterinarian to determine the cause and seek treatment.
Be cautious around strange dogs and treat your own pet with respect. Because children are the most common victims of dog bites, parents and caregivers should keep these tips in mind:
Here are other tips for preventing dog bites:
We all know that dogs can’t talk to us, so they use their own vocalizations, body gestures and postures to express themselves. They rely on these types of communication to let people and other dogs know their emotions, especially if they feel stressed, frightened or threatened. They hope that the gestures will work to calm the situation and keep them out of trouble.

We can’t always read a dog’s body language accurately. Dogs, just like people, have their own, unique personalities, and they don’t all express themselves in the same way. One dog wagging its tail might mean that the animal is happy to see you or wants to play. The same gesture in another dog might mean that it’s anxious or nervous.

Sometimes, dogs will yawn, put their ears back or raise a paw if they are feeling worried. As the dog gets more concerned about the situation it’s in, its behavior will change. For example, if a dog tucks its tail under its belly or leg, lies down with a leg up or stiffens its body and stares at you, it could be trying to tell you that it’s frightened or threatened. When the dog reacts by growling, snapping or biting, it’s telling you that it wants to be left alone – Right now!

Remember, we can’t predict whether a dog will bite or not based on its size and breed. Always focus on the behavior of the animal.

Ask yourself a question next time you’re around a dog and want to play with it: Does the dog seem like it wants to be with you? If the dog is relaxed and friendly, and seems happy to see you, it’s probably in a good, playful mood and will welcome your attention. If the dog won’t look at you or is avoiding you by walking or turning away, it’s probably best to let it go on its way and leave it alone. If it seems tense and nervous, or seems to be staring at you, you’ll want to stay away.

If it’s not your dog, always rely on its owner to help you understand the pet’s mood. Always, always ask the owner’s permission before you attempt to pet a dog you don’t know.
If the dog’s owner is present, request proof of rabies vaccination, and get the owner’s name and contact information.
Clean the bite wound with soap and water as soon as possible.
Consult your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room if it’s after office hours.
Contact the dog’s veterinarian to check vaccination records.
Restrain your dog immediately.
Separate your dog from the scene of the bite.
Try to confine your dog in a safe place.
Check on the bite victim’s condition.
Make sure that the wounds are washed with soap and water.
Encourage the bite victim to seek professional medical advice to check on the seriousness of the wound and the risk of rabies or other infections.
Call 911 if a response by paramedics is needed.
Provide important information.
Give the bite victim – or others who are with the person at the time of the incident – your name, address and phone number, as well as information about your dog’s most recent rabies vaccination.
Obey local rules and laws regarding reporting of dog bites.
Talk to your veterinarian for advice about dog behavior that will help prevent similar incidents in the future.
Get ready-to-use materials to celebrate National Dog Bite Prevention Week® in your clinic.
View toolkit
This collection of videos is an engaging way to learn and share information about preventing dog bites.
See the whole playlist on YouTube
Socialization prepares dogs and cats to enjoy interactions and be comfortable with other animals, people, places and activities.
Breed-specific legislation may look good on the surface, but it’s not a reliable or effective solution for dog bite prevention.
Learn why
Rabies remains a major concern worldwide, killing tens of thousands of people every year. These AVMA resources help veterinarians educate pet owners about rabies.
Learn more


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