Q: Is there any way I can "bite-proof" my dog?
A: There is no way to guarantee that your dog will never bite someone. But you can significantly reduce the risk. Here's how:
- Spay or neuter your dog. This important and routine procedure will reduce your dog's desire to roam and fight with other dogs, making safe confinement an easier task. Spayed or neutered dogs are much less likely to bite.
- Socialize your dog. Introduce your dog to many different types of people and situations so that he or she is not nervous or frightened under normal social circumstances.
- Train your dog. Accompanying your dog to a training class is an excellent way to socialize him and to learn proper training techniques. Training your dog is a family matter. Every member of your household should learn the training techniques and participate in your dog's education. Never send your dog away to be trained; only you can teach your dog how to behave in your home. Note that training classes are a great investment even for experienced dog caregivers.
- Teach your dog appropriate behavior. Don't teach your dog to chase after or attack others, even in fun. Your dog can't always understand the difference between play and real-life situations. Set appropriate limits for your dog's behavior. Don't wait for an accident. The first time he exhibits dangerous behavior toward any person, seek professional help from your veterinarian, an animal behaviorist, or a qualified dog trainer. Your community animal care and control agency or humane society may also offer helpful services. Dangerous behavior toward other animals may eventually lead to dangerous behavior toward people, and is also a reason to seek professional help.
- Be a responsible dog owner. License your dog as required by law, and provide regular veterinary care, including rabies vaccinations. For everyone's safety, don't allow your dog to roam alone. Make your dog a member of your family: Dogs who spend a great deal of time alone in the backyard or tied on a chain often become dangerous. Dogs who are well-socialized and supervised are much less likely to bite.
- Err on the safe side. If you don't know how your dog will react to a new situation, be cautious. If your dog may panic in crowds, leave him at home. If your dog overreacts to visitors or delivery or service personnel, keep him in another room. Work with professionals to help your dog become accustomed to these and other situations. Until you are confident of his behavior, however, avoid stressful settings.
Q: How many dog bites occur every year in the United States?
A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, estimates that nearly 2% of the U.S. population is bitten by a dog each year. This translates to more than 4.7 million people per year, most of whom are children.
Q: How many people die every year as a result of dog bites?
A: Ten to 20 people die every year as a result of dog bites in the U.S. By far, the majority of the victims are children. In a three-year period between 1999 and 2001, 33 people died after being bitten by a dog. A vast majority of these victims (24 of 33) were under 12 years of age.
Q: Why do some dogs bite?
A: There are many reasons why a dog bites. Dogs bite out of fear or to protect their territory or to establish their dominance over the person bitten. Some owners mistakenly teach their dogs that biting is an acceptable form of play behavior. And every year a number of newborn infants die when they are bitten by dogs who see them as "prey." Because dog bites occur for a variety of reasons, many components of responsible dog ownership—including proper socialization, supervision, humane training, sterilization, and safe confinement—are necessary to prevent biting.
Q: Which dogs most commonly bite? Are some breeds more likely to bite than others?
A: The breeds most commonly involved in both bite injuries and fatalities changes from year to year and from one area of the country to another, depending on the popularity of the breed. Although genetics do play some part in determining whether a dog will bite, other factors such as whether the animal is spayed or neutered, properly socialized, supervised, humanely trained, and safely confined play significantly greater roles. Responsible dog ownership of all breeds is the key to dog bite prevention.
For more information about dog bites and how to prevent them check out the following links:
From the Humane Society of the United States