Dog bite education, awareness helps minimize surrenders

More than 4.5 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs each year, AVMA says

Helping owners understand dogs’ behavioral cues can go a long way in promoting peaceful coexistence between people and their canine companions.

This is according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). In honor of National Dog Bite Prevention Week (April 9 to 15), the association has partnered with American Humane, Positively Victoria Stilwell, and others to spread awareness on the issue and share tips on how to prevent bites from happening.

Forty-five percent of U.S. households include at least one dog, representing a total of 88 million canine companion animals across the country, AVMA reports. While most of these pets live peacefully with their humans, dog bites remain a serious public health risk, with more than 4.5 million people bitten each year in the U.S.

“The tragedy of dog bites is that most are preventable,” says animal trainer and behavior expert, Victoria Stilwell. “The more we take the time to understand dogs’ needs and teach them the skills to cope with the challenges of living in a domestic environment, the less bites will occur.”

To help prevent dog bites, the National Dog Bite Prevention Coalition offers several tips veterinarians can share with pet owners:

  • Do not leave children unsupervised with dogs (even with family pets).
  • Make sure pets’ physical and behavioral health is in good order. Schedule regular veterinary exams.
  • Take time when introducing a dog to new situations. Arrange for low-stress interactions whenever possible and give plenty of praise, along with rewards for good behavior.
  • Educate yourself in positive training techniques. Devote time to interact with your dog.
  • Be responsible about approaching other people’s pets (i.e. ask permission from the owner).
  • Always walk dogs on a leash.
  • Monitor your pet’s activity.

“While dog bites are a serious public health issue, the good news is that most dog bites are preventable,” says AVMA president, Lori Teller, DVM, DABVP (Canine/Feline), CVJ. “By taking steps to train and properly socialize our dogs, and educate ourselves and loved ones on dog bite prevention, we can help reduce bites and keep dogs in loving homes, where they belong.”

All dogs, even well-trained, gentle animals, are capable of biting when provoked, AVMA says. Provocations might occur when dogs are eating, sleeping, caring for puppies, or when an unexpected stranger, such as a delivery driver, approaches their house.

Indeed, the National Dog Bite Prevention Coalition notes the risk of dog bites to delivery drivers has become a particular concern in recent years due to a national rise in e-commerce sales.

“Over the past several years, many of us have adapted to new routines, including increased online shopping and home deliveries, which can be potentially disruptive to our pets,” Dr. Teller says. “To help prevent bites in these and other situations, it’s crucial we prepare our dogs for safe interactions, both inside and outside our homes.”

To help prevent bites in these situations, the coalition offers these tips veterinarians can share with owners:

  • Secure your dog in a separate room, crate, or fenced area during delivery times to prevent surprise encounters between your pet and the delivery driver.
  • Place visible signs on your door or on your property to warn delivery personnel about the presence of a dog.
  • Train your dog to be comfortable with strangers and to follow basic commands.
  • Socialize your dog to help them become more comfortable with new situations.
  • Communicate with delivery services ahead of time.
  • Monitor your dog’s behavior. Consult with your veterinarian if you notice signs of aggression.

For more on National Dog Bite Prevention Week, click here.

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