School is out for the summer, and the kids will have more time to interact with both friends and furbabies, so it is important that parents remind their children that all dogs will bite if threatened beyond their comfort zones, whether they are family pets or stray dogs. Documentation indicates that the majority of dog bite victims are children, and more than half of the victims were bitten by a dog they knew: the family dog or one living in the neighborhood. Dr. Sophia Yin, a well-known animal behaviorist, stresses that it is wrong to expect a dog to tolerate any human interaction. It is the caregiver's responsibility to be aware of the dog's likes and dislikes and the level of tolerance. Dog bite prevention tips for parents include:
*Spay or neuter your dog. Dogs that have not been altered are three times more likely to bite than dogs that have been spayed or neutered. Spaying or neutering your pet will reduce aggressive tendencies, decrease the potential for various cancers, and help alleviate our pet overpopulation.
*Set appropriate limits on acceptable behavior with consistent, persistent training. Don't chain your dog outside for long periods of time, and then expect him to be well behaved. Dogs are social beings and isolation usually leads to aggression.
*Create a comfortable haven where your dog can retreat and feel safe. Just like humans, dogs need their own space.
*Remind family members to NOT disturb dogs that are sick, eating, sleeping, nursing puppies, or guarding territory or property, such as a toy, car, or yard. Do not allow aggressive games such as "sic em," even in fun.
*If you have a mellow, well behaved dog that suddenly snarls or snaps, it could be a medical problem, such as arthritis, or a painful ear or tooth infection, also check with your vet immediately.
*Teach your children how to play with animals, how to handle them, how to pick them up, and when to leave them alone. Emphasize the importance of respect and kindness to animals.
*Never leave any child unsupervised with any dog.
Dog bite prevention tips to emphasize to the children include:
*Never approach a tied-up dog, and never reach through a fence or kennel to pet an animal.
*Before you pet any dog, always ask his caregiver for permission. Walk up slowly from the side. Speak softly, turn your hand palm down, and let the dog sniff it. Pet the dog gently under the chin, or on his chest, not on the top of the head.
*Don't play tug-of-war, or rough games which can make dogs aggressive.
*Avoid hugging or placing your face into the face of a dog. While some dogs may tolerate being hugged, few dogs actually enjoy it.
*Never startle, tease, scream, or shout at a dog. If a dog growls at you, leave him alone.
*Never run from a dog; to avoid being chased, stand still and quiet and look away from the dog. If possible, place something such as a bicycle between you and the dog. If you fear attack, roll into a ball, and stay as still and quiet as possible. Usually the dog will lose interest and leave.
Although dog bites will never be totally eliminated, a common sense, well-planned, proactive approach can certainly lessen the threat of an unpleasant encounter with man's best friend.
* Pauline Larsen can be contacted at Box 373, Newell, Iowa 50568 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.