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“My Dog Would Never Bite…”

May 16, 2011

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard someone say, “My dog would NEVER bite anyone!” That is a claim that I suggest no one make about their dog. We all want to trust our dogs 100%, but ultimately, they are all still dogs, capable of biting if provoked to do so. That doesn’t mean your precious Fido is a cold blooded killer, but it means we need to learn their body language in order to prevent potential bites. Here are some startling statistics:

-The number of Americans who had to be hospitalized as a result of dog bites went up 86% in the past 16 years, from 5,100 hospitalizations in 1993, to 9,500 in 2008. The average cost of treatment was $18,200 per patient. The patients generally were kids under 5 years old and seniors over 65. (US Dept. of Health and Human Services.)

-Dog bites are the fifth most frequent reason for a visit to the emergency room caused by activities common around children (statistic here)

Why do dogs bite? There are numerous reasons as to why dogs bite, but here are some common causes:

  • Distress
  • Pain
  • Medical Condition
  • Poor socialization
  • Aggression Issues
  • Weak nerves and temperament
  • The dog was never taught bite inhibition
  • Possession of toys, food, any high reward item taken away from an aggressive dog
  • Getting in a dog’s face, leaning over a dog
  • Startling a dog while it is sleeping
  • Rough play that over stimulates the dog
  • A person running up to a dog directly
  • Guarding territory
  • Prey drive is kicked in (usually with children running and screaming while playing)
  • Pulling at skin, hair, ears (typically done by children)

What can humans do differently to be proactive?

  • ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS ask before petting a strange dog
  • Never lean over a strange dog
  • Do not approach dogs on tie outs
  • Always supervise children with dogs
  • If breaking up a dog fight, learn how to do so safely (email us for questions on this)
  • Socialize your dog extensively with children, different environments, and different types of people in a positive manner
  • Blame the deed and not the breed of dog-don’t assume anything about the dog just because of its breed
  • Maintain a neutral body position (no leaning forward, constant staring at a dog, etc..)

Signs to look for:

  • Dog moves positions, for example, a child is pulling and tugging at the dog–the dog may get up to avoid further disturbance (this is an all too common situation where the parent needs to be vigilant that the child is not unintentionally provoking the dog)
  • A dog licks his/her lips
  • Ears back, pleading expression
  • The dog shows the whites of its eyes
  • Face turns away from provoking human, sometimes tail is tucked
  • A low growl as a warning (probably an obvious one! 🙂 )
  • Yawning as the person approaches

**Tail wagging does not always mean the dog is in a joyful mood, or approachable!!**

Now here’s a test. This video upsets me for a number of reasons, but perhaps you can see what this reporter and handler did wrong? What signs of distress do you see in this dog?

If you are interested in learning more statistics, here is a great link. Austin Dog Zone strongly supports Doggone Safe, an organization that offers educational programs for children and adults, aiming at preventing future bites and creating a community of support for bite victims. Their “Be A Tree” program is extremely successful at teaching children, in particular, to remain still if approached by a strange dog. Please check them out and support their organization. Email us if you have questions, or need training help. Here’s to dog bite prevention, 24-7, 365 days a year!

Post Written by: Laura Neiheisel

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About Austin Dog Zone

Austin Dog Zone formed in 2011. We offer dog training for all breeds and temperaments. We are committed to staying up-to-date on the most current scientific research available for dogs regarding both behavior and wellness. Our methods are effective, dog-friendly and family friendly.