This year (2017), there will be an estimated 89 million dogs in the United States. In 2016, there were 31 dog bite-related fatalities (13 victims were children under 9 years old and 18 were adults over 30 years of age). Each year, approximately 4.5 million people are affected by dog bites. To help reduce the number of injuries due to dog bites, both adults and children should be educated about dog bite prevention. Owners should also be aware and practice responsible ownership.
Why do dogs bite?
Dogs can bite for a variety of reasons. If they feel overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, threatened, over-energized, startled etc., they can (or will) bite. Dogs may also accidentally bite during play, so it is important to avoid overly aggressive games with them such as tug-o-war or wrestling, especially with children.
How can I tell if my dog (or someone else’s) is about to bite?
Understanding dog body language is key to avoid being bitten. You should look out for certain signs (tail between the legs, flattened ears, fur on the back standing up, crouching, baring teeth or barking) If you notice any of these, you should back away immediately.
How can I prevent my dog from biting?
If you begin to see signs of aggression, never ignore them. It is best to seek professional help immediately, before a serious event occurs. Puppies are known to bite or nip due to teething, but you should not let it become a habit. Encourage your dog to chew on appropriate items such as toys or a designated blanket, but never someone’s hand or clothing. Socialization is also key in this matter. A dog who knows how to get along with other dogs and humans will be less likely to bite because they will feel more comfortable and confident.
What can I do to keep my children safe?
It is important to sit down with your children and explain they should never approach an unfamiliar dog without asking permission from their guardian and/or the owner. Many times, children are bitten because the owner hasn’t had a chance to stop them from petting the dog. By asking for permission, the owner will be able to warn you if the dog is aggressive, skittish, calm, or even in training.
What if my child is approached by a dog who is not on a leash?
No matter how young or old, a person should never run from a dog or scream. It will only make the dog want to run after you. Instead, you should stand very still and avoid eye contact. Once the dog loses interest, slowly back away, continuing to avoid eye contact. Should your child ever be attacked, they should give the dog whatever they have, (backpack, jacket, scarf, etc.) as a distraction and something they can bite on until an adult arrives to assist.
In 2016, insurers in the state of Florida paid almost $50 million in dog bite claims, with an average cost of $37,000 per claim. On average, Florida Peninsula handles 5 dog bite-related claims each month. A Florida Peninsula policy may be endorsed to add animal liability coverage depending on your dog breed. For additional information, speak to an agent today.
The best way to avoid a dog bite is to be aware, cautious, and educated. For further information on dog bite prevention, visit the ASPCA website.
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