National Dog Bite Prevention Week 2013

Creative Commons via State Farm: http://www.flickr.com/photos/statefarm/
Creative Commons via State Farm.

This year National Dog Bite Prevention Week took place May 19th through 25th.  While I may be a bit late posting this, since the week is already almost over, it's never too late to learn more about how to safely interact with our pets!

According to the AVMA, over 4.5 million people in the US (yearly) become victims of dog bites.  Unfortunately children and senior citizens make up a majority of dog bite victims, and children are the most likely to be severely injured by a dog.  Think that only unknown dogs pose a risk?  Think again!  Most dog bites, especially those inflicted on children, are from familiar dogs such as family pets.  All (or almost all?) dogs have teeth, and all of them can bite.  Yes, even little cutie fuzzy wuzzy Mr. Fuffy Bottom Chickenpants!

Most dogs don't bite just because they want to hurt us.  In almost all cases, dogs bite for a reason.  They could be stressed, in pain, startled or scared, feel threatened, or be trying to protect something (or someone) that is valuable to them.  Sometimes bites occur accidentally, when a dog is playing for example.  Remember that dogs can't tell us when they are uncomfortable the way that other humans can.  It's important to be aware of a dog's body language while you are interacting with them.  Look out for signals such as a stiff tail, tense body, intense staring, yawning, tongue flicking, eye rolling (showing the whites of the eye), or pulled back ears.  If a dog looks tense, nervous, or frightened, or if he/she is attempting to back away from you, growling, or barking, it's a good idea to give the dog some space.

Learning more about dog behavior can help you to avoid negative interactions, but you don't have to be a behavior expert to reduce your chances of being bitten.  If you are approached by an unknown dog, try to remain calm.  Screaming and/or running away will just encourage some dogs to chase you.  Remain alert and calm, especially around unknown dogs.  Never pet or otherwise interact with a dog without asking it's owner for permission first, even if the dog is familiar with you.  Never purposely pester or annoy a dog (or any other animal) for any reason.  If you have children, make sure to teach them to treat animals with respect, and always supervise their interactions with pets.

If you are a dog owner, it's important to socialize your dog so he/she becomes accustomed to all different types of people and situations.  Basic training is also very important.  Keep your dog leashed unless you're on your own property or on a designated off-leash area.  Keep your dog under control, and do not allow him/her to approach strangers unless they express that they'd like to interact with your pet.  Responsible dog owners are on the front line of bite prevention, and there's a lot you can do to make sure both your pet and community members remain safe.

Have you ever been seriously bitten by a dog?  What steps do you take to make sure you remain safe around dogs?  Post a comment and share your stories!

After all that bite talk, I think we need a cute dog video!  So here's Kitsune with a bug he found on the floor this morning.  Don't worry, the bug wasn't harmed!

I hope everyone has a fun and safe Memorial Day weekend!