Photo courtesy Colleen Paige, National Kids and Pets Day

More than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year, and most of them are children.  May 19th through the 25th is National Dog Bite Awareness Week.  It’s important to remember that any dog, regardless of size or breed, can bite, so prevention through education is key to keeping yourself and your loved ones safe.  Thankfully, most dogs are not aggressive, but taking steps to ensure that you stay away from those that are and keep your dog from becoming one should be a top priority year round.

Most dogs bite for one of two reasons: 1) They’re scared, or 2) they think you are prey.  Children are most likely to be bitten, however, because they tend to be at eye level, stare dogs directly in the eyes and make sudden movements including innocently pulling on ears and tails.  Dog bites can range from minor scratches and injuries to more serious cases including death.  According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), more than 800,000 Americans receive medical treatment for dog bites each year (more than half are children).  Recently, a 1-year old beagle bit his family’s 4-year old child after the child came too close to the pet’s special birthday treat (the child received treatment and is fine).

So what can you do as a responsible pet owner to prevent your dog from biting and to keep yourself and your family safe from other dogs?  First, ensure that your pet is properly socialized and trained starting at a young age.  If your dog is not comfortable in social situations, then avoid bringing him/her into them.  Secondly, teach your child from a young age to always ask you or another responsible adult before approaching a strange dog.  Never leave babies or young children alone with a dog (even your own).  Some dogs, especially jealous or dominant ones, will wait for you to leave the room before biting a child.  Teach your child to stay away from your pets when they are eating, sleeping or in pain.  Even calm, gentle dogs can lash out when food, sleep, toys or pain are involved.  For more great tips on keeping your kids safe, visit National Kids and Pets Day.

If you are concerned about your dog’s behavior, please give us a call today at (301)258-0333 to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors.