The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a federal agency which monitors and controls human diseases, estimates over 4.7 million people are bitten per year. This is approximately 2 percent of the U.S. population. Ten to twenty people die each year from injuries resulting from dog bites. Most of these victims are children.
In addition to physical injuries, people, especially children, can be emotionally scarred as well. It is sad, indeed, when a person who has suffered a dog bite can no longer feel comfortable around animals, and may in fact, be terrified of them. Such people lose a wonderful aspect of their lives and a chance to have a meaningful human-animal bond.
Reduce the risk of your dog biting
There is no way to guarantee that your dog will never bite someone. But you can significantly reduce the risk if you:
Spay or neuter your dog. This will reduce your dog's desire to roam and fight with other dogs. Spayed or neutered dogs are three times less likely to bite than intact dogs.
Socialize your dog. Introduce your dog to many different types of people and situations so that he or she is not nervous or frightened under normal social circumstances.
Train your dog. Participating in puppy socialization and dog training classes is an excellent way to help you and your dog learn good obedience skills. Training your dog is a family matter, and every member of your household should be involved and use the same training techniques.
Teach your dog appropriate behavior. Avoid playing aggressive games with your dog such as wrestling, tug-of-war, or 'siccing' your dog on another person. Do not allow your puppy to bite or chew on your hands. Set appropriate limits for your dog's behavior. Do not wait for an unacceptable behavior to become a bad habit, or believe your dog will 'grow out of it.' If your dog exhibits dangerous behavior toward any person, particularly toward children, seek professional help from your veterinarian, an animal behaviorist, or a qualified dog trainer. Your community animal care and control agency or humane society may also offer helpful services. Dangerous behavior toward other animals may eventually lead to dangerous behavior toward people, and is also a reason to seek professional help.
Be a responsible dog owner. Obtain a license for your dog as required by law, and provide regular veterinary care, including rabies vaccinations. For everyone's safety, do not allow your dog to roam. Make your dog a member of your family. Dogs who spend a great deal of time alone in the backyard or tied out on a chain are more likely to become dangerous. Dogs who are well-socialized and supervised rarely bite.
Err on the safe side. If you do not know how your dog will react to a new situation, be cautious. If your dog may panic in crowds, leave him at home. If your dog overreacts to visitors or delivery or service personnel, keep him in another room. Work with professionals to help your dog become accustomed to these and other situations. Until you are confident of his behavior, however, avoid stressful settings.
If your dog would bite a person:
Confine your dog immediately.
Check on the victim's condition. If necessary, seek medical help.
Provide the victim with important information. This should include your name and address, name of the dog, the date of your dog's last rabies vaccination, and the name and phone number of your veterinarian.
Cooperate with the animal control official responsible for acquiring information about your dog. If your dog must be quarantined for any length of time, ask whether he may be confined within your home or at your veterinarian's hospital (this is usually determined by the dog's rabies vaccination status). Strictly follow quarantine requirements for your dog.
Seek professional help to prevent your dog from biting again. Consult with your veterinarian, who may refer you to an animal behaviorist or a dog trainer.
Do not just give your dog to someone else if your dog's dangerous behavior cannot be controlled. Because you know your dog is dangerous, you may be held liable for any damage he does even when he is given to someone else. Do not give your dog to someone who wants a dangerous dog. If you must give up your dog due to dangerous behavior, consult with your veterinarian and with your local animal care and control agency or humane society about your options. New owners may be possible if they have a good knowledge of dog behavior and training, and are fully aware of the dog's behavior problems.
To avoid being bitten:
Be cautious around strange dogs. To avoid being bitten, never approach an unfamiliar dog, especially one who is tied or confined behind a fence or in a car. Do not pet an unfamiliar dog without the owner's permission, and make sure to let the dog see and sniff you first. Always assume that a dog who does not know you may see you as an intruder or as a threat.
Never turn your back to a dog and run away. A dog's natural instinct will be to chase and catch you. Instead, remain motionless, with your hands at your sides. Avoid direct eye contact. When the dog loses interest, slowly back away.
Do not disturb a dog while she's sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy, or caring for puppies. Be sure the dog is aware of your presence before you touch the dog - even your own. A startled dog may bite as a reflex action.
Teach children not to tease or chase dogs.
Never leave an infant or child alone with a dog.
If you are attacked:
Put something between you and the dog. Use your coat, purse, book bag, bicycle, or other object to separate yourself from the dog.
Protect your head. If you are knocked down, cover your head and ears with your hands and curl into a ball. Try not to move or scream.
Care for any wounds. Wash any wound with soap and water and seek medical attention.
Report the attack to the police or animal control agency. Try to remember as much as possible about the attack.
The happiness and safety of you, your pet, and the people around you is important to us. By responsibly taking care of your dog and educating other dog owners, you can help prevent dog bites. You can help by supporting dog bite prevention educational programs in schools, and teaching children and adults the proper way to approach unfamiliar pets and avoid being bitten.