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Bites from dogs and cats are a serious public health problem. Approximately 3 million people are bitten each year and an average of 14 people die each year from dog attacks. Dog bites are responsible for more liability home owner insurance claims than any other cause. Children are at the greatest risk for dog bites resulting in serious or fatal injuries.

Dogs and cats are carnivores (meat-eaters) and bite by instinct when hunting, when defending themselves and during social conflicts. They may even use their teeth in play. IT IS NATURAL FOR DOGS AND CATS TO BITE! To avoid dog/cat bites, dogs/cats have to be taught not to bite. Cats are more difficult to train but their bites and scratches can also be prevented.

Tips for Avoiding Dog Bites

  • The first step in avoiding dog bites is to take care in selecting a dog.

    • Guarding and fighting breeds of dogs should not be selected for family pets. 

    • If an adult dog is being obtained, special attention should be paid to its temperament and how will socialized it has been with people of all ages and with other animals. 

    • If a puppy is being selected, the temperament of its parents and of puppies from previous litters should be evaluated. 

      • Ask the owner to see the puppy's parents and for names and phone numbers of others who got puppies from these parents.

Training Puppies

  • Puppies need to be properly socialized especially between 4- and 16- weeks of age in order to prevent excessive fear and aggression toward strangers when they are adults.
  • Puppies naturally use their teeth when playing, however they must be discouraged from using their teeth on people even during play. 
    • Chewing and "mouthing" should be corrected with a sharp "NO"
    • Then the chewing should be redirected to an appropriate chew toy.
  • Puppies and dogs should not be allowed to use their teeth when taking treats out of hands. 
    • To discourage this offer the treat inside a closed fist. 
    • Only allow the dog to take the treat after they have gently nudged with their muzzle. 
    • Do not hold the treat above the dog's head which would encourage them to jump up and grab the treat out of the hand.
  • Never allow anyone to tease a puppy, dog, kitten, or cat. 
    • Teasing even during play will unintentionally frustrate the dog or cat and may lead to biting.

Tips for Avoiding Dog & Cat Bites

  • Never approach, touch or try to pick up an unfamiliar dog or cat without the owner's permission. Especially avoid a dog that is on a chain or tied up.

  • Never tease or make menacing gestures toward a dog or cat.

  • Keep your movements & actions low-key; your voice firm but subdued.

  • Never enter a fenced yard with a dog if the owner is not there and even then, not without the owner's permission.

  • If a dog approaches or runs toward you, stand still. You cannot out run a dog. Running away will encourage the dog to chase you.

  • If a dog approaches you do not stare (do not make direct eye contact) at it. Instead watch it's movements out of the corner of your eye.

  • Do not turn your back on the dog. 

    • You may try to slowly back away. If this movement makes the dog more assertive (aggressive) i.e. move toward you in a more aggressive way or growls/snarls, then you must stand still and very slowly move your hands and arms to protect your chest and neck. You may only back away once the dog has left.

  • If a dog knocks you down, do not move. Lie on your stomach and cover the back of your neck with your hands.

  • If you are bitten first contact your physician or obtain emergency medical assistance. Children should contact their parents or other adult. As soon as possible report the bite to Animal Control Officers, provide them with a detailed description of the dog and the specific location where the dog or cat was last seen.

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