The third week of May has been designated as Dog Bite Prevention Week across the United States, and with this week in our recent past, it’s important to remember why we have designated it as such.
The issue of dog bites is a serious one. The CDC reports that of the 4.5 million dog bites per year, 800,000 of those seek medical attention. Also, the number one victims of dog bites are children, and bites are not restricted to unfamiliar dogs. The AVMA mentions that “most dog bites affecting young children occur during everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs.” This fact is not meant to frighten people away from owning a dog, but rather to suggest that preventative measures must be taken, even with family dogs.
Keeping yourself or your child safe around dogs is not a matter of identifying, and avoiding, a certain breed of dog. The CDC reports that any breed of dog can bite, saying, “There is currently no accurate way to identify the number of dogs of a particular breed, and consequently no measure to determine which breeds are more likely to bite.” Therefore, the following suggestions apply to every dog, regardless of breed, temperament, or familiarity with the person.
1. Don’t let your child pull a dog’s tail, fur, or hit a dog.
Even the best dog, if he feels threatened, can snap at a person.
2. When approaching a new dog, always let him sniff you before petting him.
Cesar Millan, a dog behaviorists, mentions that “a lot of people who meet a new dog want to go over to him, touch him, and talk to him. In the language of dogs, this is very aggressive and confusing. Instead, wait for the dog to come over and smell you and check you out. While he does this, act like you’re ignoring him. Don’t make eye contact. Once he analyzes and evaluates you, he’ll tell you how he feels about you. He may back away, or he may indicate that he wants to do more than just smell you. Either way, wait for his signal before touching him, talking to him, or making eye contact. If you avoid these things until he gives you a sign, you’ll make him feel at peace with you.”
The CDC backs this up by telling people to “remain motionless (e.g., “be still like a tree”) when approached by an unfamiliar dog,” and to not “pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.”
3. Do not disturb a dog who is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies (CDC).
The behavior of protecting food is instinctual for a dog (though it is something that definitely should be corrected). Even if your dog doesn’t show signs of food aggression, children should not go near a dog that is eating, just to be safe.
4. Never allow a child to pull toys from a dog’s mouth.
Dog fights often occur over toys, and it is not safe for a child to be near a dog’s mouth when he has a toy or food.
5. Never leave your child unattended with any dog, and never let your child play with a dog while not being supervised.
It’s never safe to assume that your dog and child will be safe while alone together. Both children and dogs can be unpredictable.
6. Do not run from a dog and scream (CDC).
Dogs are naturally predators, and running and screaming from a dog can release this instinct.
7. If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and lie still (e.g., “be still like a log”) (CDC).
8. Never hit an approaching dog out of fear or otherwise.
Instead, remain still and let the dog sniff you. Try to exhibit a sense of calm. Even affectionate dogs will feel the need to defend themselves if hit.
Unfortunately, dog bites do happen, but Christensen & Hymas specialize in personal injury law, including the law involving dog bites. Please call us at 801.506.0800 if you have been injured by a dog bite. We can help you.