Statistics show that in the US there are around 4.5 million people bitten by dogs each year with reconstructive surgery needed for 27,000 of these. When a dog bites it’s usually an aggressive or possessive behavior. Situations like playing with toys, being hungry, or becoming scared can be the reason behind your dog's habit. Some people attribute biting to the owners not training or socializing the dogs well or believe that specific breeds are more prone to aggression. It’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks, and understanding why dogs bite and what you can do to prevent it aids for a happier dog and a happier human.
Recognizing when a dog might bite
Every dog will have an individual behavior they exhibit when they might be about to bite, so watching your dog and learning this will help prevent you from receiving a bite. But there are some common characteristics to be aware of too. If a dog becomes scared they may appear smaller and bite out of fear. A dog could become aggressive when playing or at meal times, becoming too excited or impatient. In this case, they may make themselves appear bigger but puffing out their fur and standing tall.Teaching the dog the ‘leave it’ command and making them sit while you put their food down for them and stay until you say so can help avoid this aggressive behavior.
Preventing bites and correcting behavior
Recognizing the behavior is the first step to be able to correct it and avoid a bite. However, if a dog is going to bite there are several things you can do to help yourself. You can give the dog something else to bite as a distraction, such as your jacket or bag or put an item in between you and the dog, like your bike. Children can startle dogs and challenge them a lot more so it’s important to teach them how to behave around dogs. They should always ask the owner if they can pet the dog before approaching it and not be loud around the dog as this can scare them.
If you do get bitten
There are laws that usually hold the dog’s parent responsible if they do bite someone but these laws vary depending on the state. Legally when someone gets bitten most states will hold the owner responsible for the dog's behavior and any medical costs. Some states are more lenient if it’s the first time the dog has displayed such behavior and will give them a second chance. Most states also have laws regarding when a dog should be on its leash. New Jersey is one of many states that holds the owner strictly liable for dog bites. Seeking medical attention may be required, but a lot of dog bites aren’t reported and don’t require medical input. If the skin is broken, bites can easily become infected due to bacteria on the dog’s teeth, so regular wound cleaning is essential and one should be aware of the risk of tetanus and rabies.
It’s important to remember that a lot of dogs are friendly and won’t usually bite. Some breeds are associated with aggression and biting more than others but a lot of this may be associated with training they receive, as these breeds are often chosen as guard dogs. Prevention is better than treating a dog bite so be aware of your behavior as well as the dog’s.
Submitted by Chrissy Jones