Bite is a Four Letter Word

article national dog bite prevention week dog star daily leslie fisher elkton md

BITE. The very word conjures an array of human responses: anger, fear, sadness, confusion amongst others. Dogs bite. Dogs bite for reasons very clear to themselves.  Humans often have difficulty comprehending the chain of events leading to a dog bite, hence my sharing of education by dedicated professional Joan Orr of DOGGONE SAFE . Joan has been busy promoting National Dog Bite Prevention Week May 16th – May 22nd.  Of note: a staggering 70 % of all dog bites occur to children under the age of 15, according the American Veterinary Medical Association.

 Have you been bitten by a dog? Once, during a private session, I myself was bitten and since then have become extra diligent in observing dog body language. I regarded that as a learning experience. Professionals work VERY hard to avoid being bitten.  Pet owners, lacking proper understanding of canine body language and dog behavior, can and do receive bites from their own dogs, as evidenced by calls that I receive.  An interesting statistic came from a 2007 compilation by Center for Disease Control and USPS: only 20 % of dog bites happen when the victim does NOT know the dog.  As such, I recently spoke with a person, whose small dog had bitten her hand, necessitating a visit to a hand clinic. She related her now fearful regard towards her own dog. Could this bite have been avoided? Probably. Unfortunately, professionals are most often called when early warnings have escalated to an actual bite.

 Speaking of bite warnings, a wonderful resource is that of CAROL BYRNES: What is My Dog Saying?  DVD. I would encourage all dog owners to become conversant with how their own dogs are communicating signs of fear, stress, anxiety and over arousal, all of which can lead to a bite.  Situations in general where bites may occur are:

  •     Reach between fighting dogs to separate them.
  •     Reach between highly aroused dogs (fence fighting)
  •     Force dogs into submissive positions.
  •     Children (or adults) invade sleeping space of a soundly sleeping dog.
  •     Toddlers invade space and poke dogs who cope poorly with these intrusions.
  •     Force a growling dog to give up an item in his mouth.
  •     Redirected bite after applying punishment (dog whirling about for nearest target after being shocked)
  •     Put a fearful dog into a situation where they feel cornered and trapped.

The list could go on and on, which is why I encourage you to make use of excellent resources now, always and during National Dog Bite Prevention week. Be safe, practice good prevention measures, and avoid that four letter word ever occurring in your own home.  BITE.