Preventing and Avoiding Dog Bites

An estimated 4.7 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs each year. While some 2,500 of these are letter carriers, children are the most common victims of severe dog bites. Dog-bite injuries are a serious problem, but they are a problem we can solve.

Here are some pointers to help you protect your children:

  • Spay or neuter your dog. Dogs who have not been spayed or neutered are three times more likely to bite than are dogs who have been spayed or neutered.
  • Train and socialize your dog so that she is comfortable being around people including friends, neighbors, and children.
  • Never play “attack” games with your dog. He won’t always understand the difference between play and real-life situations.
  • If you don’t know how your dog will react to a new situation, be cautious. When a letter carrier or other service person comes to your door, be sure your dog is safely restrained or confined in another room before opening the door. Don’t allow your dog to bark, jump against the door, or bite the mail as it comes through the mail slot; this will only teach your dog to attack the letter carrier.
  • If your dog exhibits behavior such as growling, nipping, or biting “even on an occasional basis” seek professional advice from your veterinarian, an animal behaviorist, or a skilled dog trainer.
  • Never approach a dog you don’t know or a dog who is alone without his owner, especially if the dog is confined behind a fence, within a car, or on a chain.
  • Don’t disturb a dog who is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
  • Don’t pet a dog, even your own, without letting him see and sniff you first.
  • When approached by a dog you don’t know, don’t run or scream. Instead, stand still with your hands at your sides and do not make direct eye contact with or speak to the dog. Teach children to “be a tree” until a dog goes away and to practice with a stuffed toy dog.
  • If you are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your ears. Lie still and keep quiet until the dog goes away. Teach children to “lie like a log” until a dog goes away.
  • If a dog attacks, you may be able to decrease injury by “feeding” him your jacket, purse, bicycle, or anything else that can serve as a barrier between you and the dog.

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