In this article, we’ll be talking about ways to prevent your dog from biting someone, and also about how to avoid being bitten yourself. Getting dog biting training tips and education is important for dog owners, parents, and especially children. It’s not too far-fetched (no pun intended!) to say that nearly every single dog bite that’s ever taken place could probably have been prevented. It’s up to us to learn when and why dogs bite and what to do to prevent it.
Even though you can’t be sure that your dog will never bite anyone, there are several things you can do to significantly reduce the risk.
Know the dog you’re adopting. If you’re adopting a dog from a shelter, try to find a shelter whose staff and volunteers can inform you about the dog’s background, his personality, and how he behaves in the shelter.
Supervise your dog with children and other dogs. You should not leave a child younger than ten or a baby alone with a dog. Also, children need to be taught how to be gentle with dogs and treat them with respect. I strongly recommend reading these articles, Dog Training for Kids and Dog Bite Safety for Children.
Neuter or spay your dog as soon as possible. Puppies can be neutered or spayed as early as eight weeks of age. Check with your veterinarian about the best time to spay or neuter. Neutered and spayed dogs may be less likely to bite.
Start training right away. The best dog and puppy training program I’m aware of is TheOnlineDogTrainer.com. You can read my review of this program HERE. This website is run by professional dog trainer, “Doggy Dan,” and contains more than 250 dog training videos on every dog behavior issue you can think of. And you can try it for 3 days for $1!
Another dog training program I highly recommend is TheFamilyDog.com. They have dog training for the whole family (including a special section just for kids that I’ll talk about later in this article). You can visit their website HERE.
Early training creates a good foundation of communication between you and your dog that will help you effectively manage their behavior for the life of the dog. Believe me, dog training makes the whole family’s life easier!
Don’t isolate your dog. Make him part of the family! Don’t chain or tie the dog outside, and don’t leave them home alone or unsupervised for long periods of time. Even a dog in a fenced in yard feels isolated. Dogs are pack animals. They need and want to belong to a group. Dogs who are kept isolated too often can become frustrated and feel alone and defenseless – both triggers that make them more likely to bite.
Make sure you socialize your dog. Dogs who have healthy social interactions with people, children, other dogs and other animals make more trustworthy pets. Dogs who are not socialized are a bigger risk for biting because they can become frightened by people or children approaching, an interaction with another dog or cat, or people approaching on the street or sidewalk. A scared dog is more likely to bite. It’s important for dogs (especially puppies in the first few weeks of life) to be exposed to a variety of people, animals, places and situations. It helps them build confidence and makes them feel comfortable in their surroundings, making them far less likely to bite. Never force your dog in a socializing situation – let him do it at his own pace, within his own comfort level. For more information about socializing your dog, read this article, The Importance of Socializing a New Puppy.
Be aware of possible triggers. Commons triggers for aggression or biting include injury, pain, sickness, strangers or strange dogs approaching, unexpected touching, someone in a uniform or costume (sometimes hats), crowds, unfamiliar places, loud noises, thunderstorms or a sudden crack of lightening, fireworks, fighting or screaming. You can see there’s a commonality among these triggers – they all involve the dog being feeling startled, vulnerable or afraid. Try as much as possible to avoid putting your dog in a position where he feels these things. And if you see signs of it, try to correct the situation immediately. For example, if your dog seems scared in crowds, leave her at home. If she gets upset when the mailman or Federal Express guy comes, put her in another room when you see them pull up. Help your dog to be comfortable in as many situations as possible.
Don’t put off taking action until something serious happens. If your dog shows aggression toward anyone, even if they don’t actually bite and if no one gets hurt, seek help immediately from a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB), a veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB), or a qualified Certified Dog Trainer (CPDT). Your local veterinarian as well as local animal shelters should be able to provide information about professionals in your area. You can also get help finding behavioral help for your pet through the ASPCA HERE.
Be a responsible dog owner. Learn dog training techniques, license your dog as required by law, provide regular medical care and keep your dog in good health. Make sure they have their rabies vaccinations, and don’t allow your dog to roam alone.
One of the best ways to prevent dog bites is to understand dog body language. If you know the signs that a dog might be feeling aggressive, anxious, scared or threatened, you’ll be able to avoid being bitten.
Aggressive dogs might try to make themselves look bigger. Their ears will go up and forward, their fur will stand up or get puffy, and their tail might stick straight up. They are often straight-legged and stiff and may stare at you. They might also growl, bark or show their teeth. Do not approach a dog demonstrating this type of body language.
Scared or anxious dogs might try to make themselves appear smaller. They might crouch down, lower their head, put their tail between their legs. They might also lick their lips, and put their ears back or flat down. They will likely keep looking away to avoid eye contact with you, and they may even roll over on their back. If this dog thinks you’re a threat, they may try to move away from you. If they can’t get away, they may feel forced to bite. Do not put a frightened dog in this terrible position. If they are showing this type of body language, move away from them immediately.
For more information about dog body language, read these article:
Dog Training for Kids
As I mentioned earlier in this article, the dog training website, TheFamilyDog.com has a training program just for kids called, PeaceLoveKidsDogs. You can read more about it in my articles, Dog Training for Kids and Dog Bite Safety for Children. Here’s one of their videos that will show you what I mean when I say they make dog training FUN for kids!
There’s So Much More to Learn
Dog biting is a serious issue. We’ve just touched on the basics here in this article about ways to keep yourself and your children safe from dog bites. Please go to TheFamilyDog.com and check out their dog training program for the whole family, plus the section just for kids. I also encourage you to check out TheOnlineDogTrainer for videos about training your dog. I hope so much that this article prevents a future tragedy! Debra
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