Preventing Dog Bites: By Your Carmel Veterinarians


Each year hundreds of cases are seen the emergency rooms involving dog bites.  Many more minor dog bites go unreported.  As one of your Carmel veterinarians, it’s my job to help educate you on how to prevent these dog bites from happening in the first place.

The first thing I always tell people about dog behavior is that humans and dog do speak the same language—it’s called body language.  Unfortunately we don’t always pick up on the dog’s body signals that warn us right before a bite.  Another factor is that we humans often have very inappropriate body language that can terrify a nervous dog.  Those of you with young children know how loud and crazy our kids can be.  This excitable energy as they lunge towards a dog to give it a hug is the body language equivalent being aggressively attacked in the eyes of the dog.  Therefore it’s not surprising to hear that the number one category for dog bites is not delivery men, but kids getting bit on their hands. 

So how do you avoid getting bitten by a dog in the first place? 

1.  Teach your kids (and yourself) to always ask permission before you try to pet someones dog.  Even as one the Carmel veterinarians, if I meet a dog on the street I ask the owner if it’s ok to pet first.  IF the pet parent doesn’t say an enthusiastic yes right away, just keep walking.  If no one is there to ask, do NOT approach the dog.

2.  Watch the dog’s behavior and body language as well as mind your own body language.  If the dog is pacing, panting, yawning, licking lips, darting his gaze away, and overall looks nervous or scared do NOT try to pet it.  If the dog is barking with his hackles up, growling, lifting the corner of his upper lip, and acting territorial…do NOT approach it.  Always keep in mind your own body language too.  Ask any of the Carmel veterinarians and they will tell you NOT to approach a dog head on and try to reach out to pet its head.  Instead, crouch down, slowly approach the dog from the side, and let the dog smell your closed hand before you try to touch the dog.

How do I prevent my dog from biting and being aggressive?  To prevent your dog from biting anyone else, you must socialize your dog!!!  Socialization means getting your dog used to things they will encounter later in life and making those early experiences pleasant.  This is best accomplished when you dog is a young puppy under 4-6 months of age.  Dogs should be socialized to meeting new people, new dogs, new things, and body handling.  So take your dog to the park for a puppy playdate, have some friends over to your house, go for a car ride with your dog, go for a walk, have some neighborhood kids give your puppy so yummy treats, pick up your dog’s feet and wiggle their toes while you give a spoonful of peanut butter as a treat, etc…  Anything you think you might do with your dog in the next 10 years, try to make it happen during the first 4 months and make it a good experience.  The goal is to make your puppy easy going and happy, not a frightened nervous dog that might lash out if approached.

Lets keep the human-animal bond strong.  Prevent dog bites by socializing your puppy, asking permission to pet, observing the dog’s body language, and minding your own body language.  For more information on our Caring Hands Compassionate Hearts, click on this link to Carmel Veterinarians. 

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