big scary dogA dog may be the most loyal companion a person could hope to have—and there is absolutely nothing pathetic about that statement.  The relationship shared by dogs and humans stretches back thousands of years; and history is rife with tales of dogs’ stunning selflessness in caring for their people.  One of the more famous old stories concerns the original founders of Rome.  According to the legend, the two royal infants were abandoned on the banks of the flooding Tiber by their usurping uncle in the hope that they would drown, never to challenge his authority as king when they grew to maturity.  However, his plan was thwarted by a she-wolf who heard them crying while going to the river for a drink.  The wolf pulled them from the floodplain and nursed them until they were found and adopted by a shepherd.  Thanks to a gentle canine, the brothers survived to retake their kingdom and establish one of the most impressive societies of all time.

On the other side of the coin are the many times when dogs and humans come into conflict.  In the United States, there are a reported 4.7 million dog bites per year, 800,000 of which require medical attention.  Survivors of dog attacks often find themselves both physically scarred by the experience and anxious about their future interaction with dogs.

There is no magic formula for preventing dog bites injuries.  All dogs can bite, all dogs are different, and all dogs have different triggers.  However, many of the injuries that result from dog attacks are entirely preventable; and knowing the risk factors that most often lead to attacks can go a long way in averting the worst accidents.

1.  Canine Maleness

For presumably the same reasons why human males jump onto couches from balconies, male dogs tend toward more questionable behavior than their female counterparts.  Of those dogs that inflict fatal injuries on humans, 92% are male.  A dog’s gender is not generally immediately obvious, but it makes sense to exercise particular caution around the male dogs one is acquainted with.

2.  Motherhood

It seems that the one thing that predisposes a female dog to typically masculine canine destructiveness is protectiveness of her brood.  Once a dog has puppies, her primary allegiance is to them, not her owners.  As tempting as it may be to rush right in and play with her chubby, lumpy offspring, a mother dog should be given her space.

3.  Chains/Leashes

While leash laws should be honored by virtue of their ability to keep dogs from establishing territory that isn’t theirs and to manage them during outings, a leash does not guarantee a dog’s docility.  On the contrary, the dog that has been chained is 2.8 times more likely to bite the approaching person they see as threatening or challenging.  They feel more defensive than they otherwise might and should be dealt with carefully.  A chained animal is a scared animal is a potentially dangerous animal.

4.  Breed

While all dogs are capable of biting, some breeds—German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, and Doberman Pinschers—are more likely to cause serious injury than others.  While these breeds are perfectly capable of life as loving family pets, their goodwill is not a thing to take for granted.

5.  Level of Training/Socialization

While certain dogs have been bred specifically for their aggression (Pit Bulls being the obvious example), this aggression is not naturally directed toward humans.  Quite often, a dog’s aggressiveness has more to do with the way humans have treated and dealt with them than with innate character.  Not all people can handle all dogs:  the pet of an irresponsible person is more likely to act out.

6.  Reproductive Capabilities

When a dog (typically a male dog) has not been neutered, he will be on the lookout for females.  This causes him to behave competitively/aggressively with other dogs.…or anything he sees as an obstacle to achieving his objective.   Unneutered dogs should be watched more carefully by their owners and given a reasonably wide berth by others.

7.  Age of the Human

Most people have at least a rudimentary idea of how to behave around dogs.  Children, however, lack this intuition and are thus at greater risk:  the rate of dog bite injury is highest for children between 5-9 years of age.  In households including a dog, children should be taught young how to avoid provoking dogs and what to do in the event of a dog attack well before they will need to apply that knowledge.

Short of actually reading a dog’s mind, there is little that can be done to prevent all dog bite injuries.  While awareness and appropriate action are helpful in the vast majority of cases, a truly vicious, sick, or abused dog cannot always be kept at bay.  In those cases where human behavior contributed to the dog bite injury (or failed to fend one off where it might have), it may be necessary to call in a personal injury attorney to make sure that the victim receives the compensation they deserve for the treatment they require.  If you or someone you love has been severely injured in a dog attack, and traditional routes to relief like insurance are falling short of your needs, Christensen & Hymas can help.  As the most skilled dog bite attorneys in the Salt Lake City area, Christensen & Hymas possess all the savvy needed to see that their clients do not come up short.  For a free consultation, call (801) 506-0800.

Image courtesy of CoolValley

Ken Christensen
Partner, Founder at Christensen & Hymas
Ken Christensen is the founding partner of Christensen & Hymas. He is an avid cyclist, loves baseball, and enjoys spending time with his family in the outdoors.

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