Sunday, April 9, 2017

National Dog Bite Prevention Week

Dog Bite Prevention

Imagine, if you will, about 1,000 people are bit by a dog in the United States each and every day.  That amounts to over 350,000 people every year.  Of those, over 9,500 are hospitalized due to the serious nature of their injuries.  And, there are several people that will die from those injuries.  Of course, not all dog bites are preventable; however, with a little knowledge of dog behavior, dog owners can make a significant difference in their pet’s behavior to make them less likely to bite a human.  

Dog bites occur for many different reasons.  It’s not always due to true dominant aggressive dogs.  Dogs will bite most often out of fear, but dogs also bite a human to defend themselves or their territory, to guard a valuable resource like food or a toy, or because they feel threatened.  

The biggest mistake made by humans while training their dogs is to humanize them.  This means we treat them like they are human and part of the family.  For many dogs that will not be a problem.  However, we can, unknowingly, create separation anxiety, aggressive behavior and other behavior issues.  A dog sees us as a pack.  All members of the household need to be more dominant than their dog.  Then their pet will respect them and not feel the need to overstep their bounds.  In other words, your pet will bite a person to send the message that the person is acting inappropriately when they feel they are higher on the totem pole than their housemate.  How do we train our puppies to be subordinate to all house members?  That is the big question that has many answers with many books written on this subject.  This blog is not intended to teach you all there is to know about training dogs.  I do want you to understand that your dog will respond to you if you treat them like a dog and be in charge.  When you give them commands (like sit) firmly TELL them to sit.  Do NOT ASK them to sit.  As humans, we like to be polite.  Remember, they are not humans.  In addition, ideally your dog is not allowed on furniture which includes beds.  Yes, I said it.  I know that one of the reasons we get a pet is to cuddle, snuggle, and sleep with them often.  This puts them on your level literally and makes them feel equal to you and in some cases better than you.  This can promote aggression in some dogs with that aggressive tendency.  Also, it is ideal to give nothing to your dog for free.  That means any attention, treats and food should not be given unless your dog does something for it like sit or lay down.  If you do these things (command your dog, keep them off furniture and give nothing for free) you are well on your way to having a well- behaved dog that will have a much less tendency to bite. 
Fear biting dogs are a different story.  They often need professional help and antianxiety medication to help them be less fearful; and, therefore less likely to bite.   The important thing about fear aggressive dogs is to recognize it and don’t make excuses for the dog.   Get professional help when you recognize there is an issue, or at least contact a professional if you aren’t sure.

Dog bites will always be an issue so long as we choose to live our lives intertwined with a dog’s life.  Dogs provide us so much joy and fond memories, and through research we know that they give us many health benefits as well.  So, we need to figure out how to have a dog in our homes that we can trust.  I encourage anyone with a dog to seek information about how to train your dog, and to especially seek a professional at any signs of aggression.  Do not wait and do not make excuses for the dog’s behavior!!

Dr. Ron Biese
Kaukauna Veterinary Clinic


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