Preventing Dog Bites
Dogs can bite. That is a fact. There are things you can do to reduce the chances that your dog will bite someone, as well as steps you can take to keep from being bitten by someone else’s dog.
Large dogs get a bad rap here. If you ask a groomer, they’ll probably tell you that they’re more likely to be bitten by a small dog than a large one. The problem is that large dogs can do a lot more damage when they bite, so you hear about large dogs biting far more often. In addition, few people want to admit that they almost lost a finger to a Chihuahua.
Large dogs can cause significant damage or even death. Small dogs rarely cause enough damage to require stitches. Training is critical. Many people are under the assumption that because small dogs aren’t particularly dangerous, they need less training. In reality, it’s the dog’s personality and up-bringing that determines how much training they need and how likely they are to bite. Breed is far less relevant than most people believe. Small dogs tend to rule the roost, making them more likely to snap if they don’t get their way. They may also find themselves in situations that make them uncomfortable more often than large dogs do. Non-dog-owners are more likely to approach a small dog because they look less threatening. If your dog is shy, make sure you stand up for them. It’s very important to socialize them, but don’t force your little dog to interact with strangers.
It is critical to socialize your dog. That means getting them out and about, meeting a variety of people and animals, and learning about different places and objects. Don’t force your puppy. If they’re uncomfortable or afraid, forcing them to face something can make it worse. You can start socializing your puppy as early as 11 days after their first vaccinations, but be careful about where you go. Introduce them to adult dogs that you know are fully vaccinated (belonging to family or friends). Take them to a reputable dog trainer for puppy classes. A good facility will require their canine students to have had all vaccinations appropriate to their age, which will help keep your puppy safe. Take your puppy to pet-friendly stores. Avoid places like dog parks until your puppy is at least 6 months old and fully vaccinated. Introduce potentially scary objects like umbrellas. Wear a hat sometimes. The more they meet when they’re young, the better they will cope with things when they are older. A calm, confident dog is far less likely to bite than a fearful one.
Even the friendliest dog may bite if they’re hurt. It can be a defensive reaction to protect themselves from further pain or injury when someone approaches them. They may also bite reflexively if they get bumped or jostled, so be careful moving an injured dog – or better yet, get professional help particularly if injuries look severe. Don’t be surprised if the veterinarian wants to put a muzzle on your dog for the examination.
Dogs don’t just bite when they’re angry or in pain. They may also bite when they’re startled or scared. You may have only the best intentions when approaching an unknown dog, but they don’t know that. Some dogs assume that all new humans are friends, but some would much rather stick to their own people. Always ask before touching a dog you don’t know. Offer a closed hand to sniff, and then reach sideways to pet the shoulders. Don’t touch the top of the head or reach over it – many dogs find this very intimidating. It doesn’t hurt to crouch down and make yourself look smaller. Dogs can also be startled into biting if they are woken up abruptly, particularly when dreaming.
Don’t bother a dog that’s eating or caring for puppies. Don’t try to take anything away from a dog you aren’t familiar with. Teach your dog that it’s ok if someone plays in their food – they still get to eat it. Teach puppies to give up things they shouldn’t have in exchange for something they are allowed to have rather than just snatching things away. If all the best ‘toys’ are ‘stolen’ by the human, the puppy may become defensive of the object.
It is extremely important to teach children how to behave around dogs. Even the most patient family dog may bite if their ears get pulled one too many times, and many dogs have bitten children who hurt the dog entirely by accident. Do not leave children and dogs unsupervised until the child is at least ten years old and can be relied on to behave properly around the dog. Be cautious about direct interaction between dogs and infants in their grabbing and poking stage. Teach your dog to be calm and patient with children, but do not expect them to put up with absolutely everything. Teach children how to approach unknown dogs, starting with asking the owner first. It is never appropriate to run up to a strange dog.
Some dogs get nippy when playing. They may accidentally bite if they get too excited, particularly as puppies. Some dogs will try to 'herd' people, which can lead to nipping if the person doesn't go along with it. This is especially true if you run away. Playing tug may prompt nipping from some dogs. If puppy gets nippy, stop the game immediately and walk away. Ignore attempts to re-engage you in play. Your puppy should soon learn that teeth on skin means game over and a loss of your attention, so they'll have to be careful if they want to keep playing. Get to know what triggers your puppy, and try to play different games.
If you are looking for a vet in Newmarket, call us at 905-898-1010