Blogs and Stories

May 1, 2019
Amy Wade Carotenuto

Dog Bite Prevention... Not Just For Kids

FHS recently lost Volunteer Yvonne Presley who had devoted years of her life to teaching kids how to be safe around dogs. She represented FHS well, going to school dressed as her alter ego, “Granny Kind”. So this column is dedicated to her.

But is dog bite prevention just for kids? Certainly not. I can’t count the times I’ve seen people, people who I thought knew better, go up to a strange dog and stick their face right into the dog’s face. Talk about an invasion of personal space! Yes, dogs have personal space too. Just as you and I wouldn’t meet each other for the first time and rub noses, we shouldn’t do that with dogs either. Let the dog initiate the contact. If we reach toward them, stare them down or lean over them, dogs may see that as a threat. Dogs bite more out of fear than aggression.

Since there are different reasons for a dog to bite, there are very different types of body language to look for. An aggressive dog who may be protecting it’s food bowl, a prized possession or puppies may have a stiff upright stance, tail raised above it’s back, ears forward, hackles (the fur along the back) raised, the dog’s lips may be slightly curled. A fearful dog, (which, as stated earlier, dogs bite more out of fear than aggression) may have a body that is lowered, tail between it’s legs, hackles raised, eyes dilated and lips slightly curled. If you are confronted by an aggressive or fearful dog, it’s best to move slowly away without making loud noises. Keep your head down, arms lowered to your sides. Avoid yelling, hitting or running. These behaviors could simply escalate the situation.

Hopefully we as adults are doing what we tell kids to do. If you see someone walking their dog, do we ask them if it’s OK to pet their dog before we reach out?

If you see a lost dog and want to help, don’t ever give chase. The average dog can run 15 to 20 miles per hour, much faster than we can, so you won’t catch them and you can just chase them into traffic. If you want to help a lost dog, lower your stature, the lower the better (I have been known to lay down in the median of US1) turn sideways so as not to appear threatening, toss treats (the yummier, the better). Tossing the treats closer and closer to you until you can perhaps let the animal sniff you and you can safely get a leash around it’s neck. Don’t put yourself at risk though. If you are not comfortable, contact local animal services.

Then there’s our own pets. Are we taking precautions when we open our front door? Putting a dog in a bedroom before opening the front door to someone the dog may not be familiar with is well worth the minute it will take. Dogs can dash out quickly. They may see the pizza delivery person or the old friend as a threat. Your dog wants to protect you and doesn’t understand that this may be an invited guest. Be a responsible owner. Spay and neuter your pet. HSUS statistics reflect that dogs that have not been spayed or neutered are up to three times more likely to be involved in a biting incident than neutered or spayed dogs.

A good rule with most dogs is to build on trust, not on coercion or violence. A dog that trusts humans is the dog that is least likely to bite.