PET CORNER: Take steps to prevent dog bites

The old Turkish Proverb “A dog that intends to bite does not bear its teeth” has a lot of truth in it.

National Dog Bite Prevention Week® takes place during the second full week of April each year, and focuses on educating people about preventing dog bites. Because any dog can bite, education and responsible pet ownership are key to keeping your pet happy, healthy and at home with you according to the National Dog Bite Prevention Week® Coalition.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), an estimated 70 million dogs are living in U.S. households and millions of people – most of them children – are bitten by dogs every year. The majority of these bites, if not all, are preventable.

How do you prevent dog bites? Becoming educated on how to read a dog’s body language is very important. We all know that a dog that growls and shows it teeth is about to bite. But there are earlier signs that tell us that a dog is uncomfortable. Dogs use body language to express thoughts and feelings. It’s a common misconception that dogs sometimes just bite “out of the blue.” In fact, dogs DO give warnings. They DO speak, but you have to know how to listen. We need to understand their body language.

According to the Michigan Pet Fund Alliance, dogs that are comfortable have loose, wiggly bodies. They have soft eyes, floppy ears, and a relaxed or smiling mouth.

When dogs are stressed or frightened, they have a stiff body or freezing. They have a tightly closed mouth, a furrowed brow or Whale eyes – when you see the whites of their eyes. Just like people, when they want to get out of a stressful situation, dogs turn their bodies away or try to walk away. If their ears are pinned back or their tail is tucked under, these are signs that they are not comfortable.

If they are feeling stressed they may yawn when they are not tired, shake off, scratch themselves, blink or lick their lips several times in a row. If your dog or any dog exhibits any of these behaviors it is best to remove them from the situation or stop doing whatever it is that is bothering them. Being able to read a dog’s body language can prevent the situation from turning into a potential bite risk.

Another important way to prevent dog bites is to educate your children and yourself about how — or whether — to approach a dog. Here are the steps to follow if approaching a new dog.

•Ask the pet’s owner if you can meet his animal. Never approach a dog if the owner is not present. Children should be taught to never approach an animal without a responsible adult accompanying them.

• If the pet’s owner says it is OK, greet the dog with your arm out in front of you and your hand in a fist, palm down. It is best to approach the animal from the side instead of head on.

• Hold your fist low so the dog can smell it. If he turns away, leave it be. He’s not interested. If he leans in or licks your hand you are probably OK, but proceed slowly.

• Pet the dog gently under the chin or on the chest, paying attention to his response. If he seems eager for more, give him a back scratch. Avoid petting the top of the head and never try to hug.

• Teach your child to say “thank you” to the dog and its owner when done petting the animal.

Because children are most often the victims of dog bites, other important guidelines to teach children are never approach a dog when it is sleeping or eating. Also children under the age of 5 are not able to understand or respect a dog’s space. They have a hard time understanding the guidelines when it comes to animals. The parents and the pet owners need to be more vigilant when it comes to the interactions with dogs that may occur with children of this age, even if it is your own family pet. The important thing to remember is that any dog, big or small, male or female, young or old, can bite if provoked.

Dogs are treasured members of our families and we want them to be safe around children and other people. Educate your children and yourself on how to approach dogs safely, how to read dog body language and how to behave around pets.

Manistee County Humane Society is holding its annual “Soup Supper” from 4:30-7 p.m. on April 19 at the First Congregational Church, located at 412 Fourth St. in Manistee. Look for more info as the date gets closer.

We are still looking for a volunteer social media person willing to spend a couple hours a week updating our social media sites. Contact Homeward Bound if you are interested.

Deb Green is the vice president of the Manistee County Humane Society. She can be reached at dgreen1004@gmail.com.

MORE INFORMATION

Homeward Bound Animal Shelter is located off M-55 at 736 Paws Trail in Manistee. Hours are noon to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays and noon to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

For more information, contact Homeward Bound at (231) 723-7387 or visit www.homewardboundmanistee.org or Facebook. Manistee County Humane Society/Homeward Bound is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Leave a Reply