Dog bites have become an every day occurrence as far as hospital visits are concerned nationwide. Troublesome for both the owner and the victim, dog bites create animosity, conflict, resentment, anger and fear (and that goes for the dog, too). Most dog owners think their dogs are “fine” and balk at the idea of their pet posing a threat to others. Owners allow passers-by to pet the dog, and allow children to come face-to-face with a new-found furry friend.
Documented studies (and sometimes our own experiences) tell us that it is hard to predict what will set off a dog to lunge, snap or break skin. Dogs are taunted by children, cut loose accidentally by owners, and neglected in the form of exercise and diet. From a legal standpoint, it becomes a challenge to see who is at fault when a dog bite occurs. Most health departments require the mandatory reporting of a dog bite, regardless of how big or small the dog (or bite). Therefore, it is best to prevent a dog bite incident from happening in the first place. A few friendly reminders can help keep dog owners in check.
- Schedule regular visits with the veterinarian to ensure all shots and vaccinations are up to date. That way, if there is an incident that warrants investigation, you can provide evidence that you are a responsible pet owner.
- Check gates and yards by making sure the fences and gates latch and lock correctly, and that there are no new holes indicating the dog has been digging or trying to escape.
- If your dog has a tendency to become excited or aggressive (whether “friendly” assertiveness or not), install a sign that warns visitors to “beware.”
- Test the fit of the lead around the dog’s neck; it should not be too loose allowing him to break free from your hold.
- Create a home and yard space equipped for the size dog you have. Big dogs will become antsy in a small yard and foster further anxiety and resentment.
- Don’t let little ones get too close to the dog’s face. It’s tempting for a child to want to make eye contact with the dog, but some dogs find this intrusive and unpredictable.
- Don’t reach through a fence or window to pet a dog that that is unfamiliar to you, no matter how cute it is.
- Be aware of the signs that your dog displays through growls and noises. This could mean signs of a stressful situation.
- Update your homeowners insurance to cover dog bites.
- Enroll in dog training classes.
- If you see your dog exhibiting signs of aggression or signs of an impending attack (stiff legs, hair rising) do your part to avoid a confrontation.
Let’s say you’ve taken all these precautions and your dog still bites someone. What do you do? First off, offer assistance to the victim. At this point, don’t be overly apologetic on behalf of your dog. There could be a good reason the incident occurred. Report the incident and encourage the victim to have the bite checked, especially if there is bleeding or broken skin.
All dogs and the way they interact are not the same, and dog bites are a serious issue to the owner and the victim. We tend to forget that dogs are predators by nature; they exhibit territorial behaviors to prove their loyalty. Before you find yourself pleading your case to a judge because you misjudged your dog’s character, engage in practices that lessen your liability and remember that, even though Fido is a cute, tiny dog… he’s still a dog with an unpredictable attitude.