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Dog Bites: Prevention and Treatment

Dog showing teeth

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 4.7 million dog bites occur in a year. Out of those bites, approximately 1 in 5 people require medical attention, and over ten years, there were 468 deaths from dog-bite-related injuries.

This sounds pretty bad, right? But the good news is that many dog bites are preventable. However, it’s essential to know how to protect yourself and for pet parents to understand their part in preventing dog bites.

Why Do Dogs Bite?

Dogs bite for many reasons, and yes, some breeds are indeed more likely to bite (including Pit Bulls, German Shepherds, and Chihuahuas) than others. However, you should never assume a dog is going to bite strictly based on their breed. 

For example, with the proper training and care, German Shepherds make excellent pets. Likewise, don’t assume that a dog is 100% safe because of what kind of pup they are. Also, many people believe that small dogs aren’t a bite concern since the pup wouldn’t cause much damage.

A dog could bite because they feel stressed, afraid, sick, in pain, frustrated, startled, or threatened. If a dog lacks proper training and socialization, they become more likely to bite. For example, a dog may bite because of food aggression or to protect their belongings if they feel threatened or are extremely territorial.

How Can Pet Parents Prevent Dog Bites?

As a responsible pet parent, it’s up to you to ensure your dog knows how to behave around others. It’s also vital that you are always the one in control when it comes to you and your pup. Here are 7 things you need to do to reduce the chance of your dog biting someone.

1. Proper Dog Training

Training is the number one thing to do for your dog to lay a proper foundation for good behavior. Look for reward-based training near you that uses positive reinforcement techniques to teach your dog basic skills.

The earlier you start training your dog, the better. If you’re not sure where to begin, discuss options with your vet. Your vet can also offer recommendations for trainers, whether in a group setting or private sessions.

Training your dog not only teaches your dog how to behave properly. It also helps build a bond between you and your pup and strengthens your dog’s trust. You also learn how to work with your dog and give commands properly.

2. Stay Alert and Aware

No matter how well-trained your dog is, always remain alert and aware of your surroundings. Stay vigilant and scan the immediate area for potential triggers that could stress or frighten your dog. It’s like the popular idiom, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In other words, if you can stop something before it happens, it’s a lot easier to handle. 

For example, imagine someone’s coming toward you with an overly hyper pup tugging on the leash and barking. Instead of continuing forward, cross the street to put more distance between you.

3. Observe Your Dog Around Others

In addition to being aware of your surroundings, always observe your dog. If your pup seems anxious or acts unusually, remove them from the current situation. You know your dog better than anyone, so read their signals, and don’t try to force a scenario that makes your dog uncomfortable.

4. Keep Your Dog on a Leash in Public

Always keep your dog on a leash in public. Most counties and states have leash laws, so taking your dog off leash in public may likely be against the law. But even if there aren’t any rules in place, your dog is safer on a leash.

5. Socialize Your Dog

Training isn’t the only essential part of raising a well-adjusted dog. Socialization is also critical. Let your dog meet other dogs and people when they are young, exposing them to various experiences a little at a time. 

If a dog isn’t socialized properly, even the simplest things (like a tea kettle whistle or a baseball hat) can set them off. A key part of socializing your dog is to let them go at their own pace, and never force them to move faster than they can handle.

6. Discuss Concerns with Your Vet Immediately 

If you notice odd behavior changes in your dog, more aggression, stress, or anything that concerns you, talk to your vet. Don’t wait until your dog bites someone to mention it. Depending on the situation, your vet can guide you to potential answers and solutions to help your dog.

7. Adopt Your Dog from a Reputable Shelter

When you adopt a pup, find a reputable animal shelter that has staff who can answer your questions about the dog. You want people who pay attention to the animals and can tell you about their usual behavior, quirks, mannerisms, history, etc.

Child petting dog

How to Avoid Dog Bites

As a dog lover, it’s tempting to make friends with every furry canine you come across but look before you leap. Use these tips to avoid getting bit by a dog.

1. Always Ask Before You Pet Someone’s Dog

Never assume a dog is friendly or wants you to pet them. Before petting someone else’s dog, always ask permission.

2. Remain Calm and Take It Slow

If someone lets you pet their dog, don’t move fast or go straight for the pup’s head. Instead, hold out a loose fist, and let the dog sniff you. If the pup seems receptive, open your hand, let them sniff again, and give a gentle scratch under the chin. 

3. Educate Your Children About How to Treat Dogs

It’s important to go over these tips with children so they know how to properly treat and meet dogs. Tell kids to never approach a dog’s food bowl, or to go near a dog that has a bone or a treat.

4. Pay Attention to Dog Signs of Aggression, Fear, and Stress

Know the signs of aggression and fear in dogs, and don’t approach a dog that seems stressed or frightened. Not all aggressive signs are loud and threatening. If you think a dog is in pain, call an animal control officer, shelter, or vet’s office for assistance.

5. Do Not Approach a Dog You Do Not Know

If you see a dog without a human, do not approach the animal, especially if they display signs of nervousness or aggression. Instead, call the local humane office or animal control number to report the dog’s location.

What Should You Do If Your Dog Bites Someone?

If your dog bites someone, remove the dog from the area and secure them. Give your information to the victim. If the injuries are serious, call 911 if necessary.

Some states require doctors to report any dog bite, while others only require it if the doctor suspects rabies. (Make sure to keep your dog’s vaccinations updated.) Where you live will play a large part in how you deal with the situation, so it’s essential to understand your state’s dog bite laws.

What to Do If a Dog Bites You

Often, a primary concern with dog bites is bacteria that can lead to infections. If a dog bites you, first wash the wound with mild soap and water. Rinse the wound for about 5 to 10 minutes to clean it well. 

Use a cloth or bandage to apply pressure and stop the bleeding. Apply antibiotic cream, bandage the wound, and keep an eye on it for signs of infection. Visit your doctor to report the bite, providing any information you know about the dog.

If you know the dog, the owner will need to keep the dog in quarantine. If after several days the dog is fine, you won’t likely need to start any rabies protocol. But if you don’t know the dog or it’s acting strangely, you may need to start rabies treatment.

Hopefully, you never have to worry about your dog being involved in an attack. But if a dog bites your dog (or your pup bites another dog), contact your vet. Exchange the necessary contact information with the other party and contact the appropriate authorities.

Everything to Know About Dog Bites

Dog bites are things that no pet parent wants to ever deal with. However, when you have dogs, bites are always a possibility. Therefore, knowing what you can do to prevent dog bites (and take care of them if they happen) is an essential part of being a responsible pet parent. 

For more helpful information about caring for your sweet pup, check out the rest of the Neater Pets blog. Whether you need tips for training, grooming, or just some fun ways to spend a rainy day with your dog, we’ve got you covered.


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