Your Dog Would Never Bite Your Child or Your Pet Sitter, Right?
Our pet sitters know a whole lot about dogs, cats, and the myriad of endearing little animals we care for throughout Miami, but we constantly seek additional education in our field. Pet sitters Flavia Berti and Tom Wyss attended the Dog Bite Investigation Seminar sponsored by No Kill Nation, Inc. and the Miami Coalition Against Breed-Speicific Legislation on April 25, 2013. Jim Crosby, a retired lieutenant and dog trainer, spoke to police about what they do and how they assess certain situations when there are dogs involved in crime scenes, in dog bites, or alleged dog attacks and fatalities. Flavia and Tom took away two main messages from Mr. Crosby: every dog can and will bite if in pain or provoked, and the importance of education and responsible pet ownership in preventing dog bites.
Any dog can and will bite if in pain or moved into pain, according to Pet Tech and Mr. Crosby. We know this is difficult to accept; after all, your dogs are amazing beings who cuddle with you nightly and give you soul-nourishing love. We know, we love them and take care of them daily! But, dogs can bite as a reaction to something: maybe they become frightened, or startled, or feel threatened. They may bite to protect their food, toys, or puppies. As is often the case, they can even bite during play, which is unintentional but potentially very painful to their human playmates.
Here are a few compelling dog bite statistics from the American Veterinary Medical Association:
- Each year, over 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs.
- 1 in 5 people who are bitten require medical attention.
- Most of the dog bites affecting children occurs during normal, everyday activities with a familiar dog.
- Senior citizens are the second most common group of dog bite victims.
- Fortunately, there are countless ways to prevent a tragedy from occurring.
How to Avoid Dog Bites
Responsible pet ownership and education are the keys to preventing dog bites. The first step is choosing the right dog for your home. Think this through carefully; the way you raise your dog, the way it lives, has much more to do with its personality and behavior than its breed. If your only wish is to adopt a Malinois, for example, make sure you are ready to give it the exercise and mental stimulation it requires. Some dogs really do NEED exercise; if you manage to live your life perched on a couch, an active dog is not for you.
Other ways to avoid bites include:
- Socialize your dog at an early age so they’re comfortable around people and other animals. Puppies should be touched often.
- Teach your children that not every dog is friendly and okay to approach.
- Don’t put your dog in a position where it feels threatened or teased.
- Train your dog! They need to know what is expected of them. The training is fun for the dogs, who need to work, and it will build a beautiful bond between you.
- Exercise, exercise, exercise: do it regularly to maintain great health and mental stimulation
- No Wrestling! Avoid highly excitable games like tug-of-war or wrestling, which put your dogs in the position of potentially biting.
- Always use a leash in public.
- Neuter or spay your dog.
- Never, ever tie your dog up in your backyard. This creates intense frustration and pent-up aggression. Tragedies can occur when this poor dog finally breaks loose. Aside from that, tethering your dog is illegal in Miami-Dade County unless you comply with a lengthy list of criteria.
- If you keep your dog in a fenced-in yard, secure the gates and fences.
That is just the beginning. We will be covering what to do with an aggressive dog in a later post, as well as specific behaviors you can look out for in pets. In the meantime, some great reading material includes “Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior, and Evolution,” by Raymond and Lorna Coppinger, as well as “How to Speak Dog” by Stanley Coren.
Have you had any experiences with dog bites? Success stories about preventing the preventable? Please share with us in the comments section below!
A founding member of the Equipaws family, Frankie can mostly be found working behind the scenes, helping co-create online branding, managing several social media accounts, designing brand collateral, writing copy, and managing events. She also fills in for pet sitters and dog walkers when needed in Palmetto Bay, Pinecrest, and South Miami. Her own small pack consists of Boots the Shih Tzu mix and Nutmeg the Chiweenie.