Each year, almost 5 million dog bites occur in the United States. Fortunately, many of these incidents are quite preventable.
The best weapon against dog bites is education. Learning why dogs bite, taking a look at some important dog bite statistics, and keeping some basic prevention tips in mind will nip the majority of incidents in the bud before they occur.
Why Do Dogs Bite?
It’s impossible to tell that a dog won’t bite by looks alone. Although some dogs may be more likely to bite than others, dogs of all shapes, sizes, and demeanors are capable of biting.
Dogs are generally friendly creatures that don’t plan to bite anybody. Their decision to bite is a feral, reactionary one. If a dog finds itself stressed, frightened, or surprised, they may react by biting. A dog may also bite if they’re hurt or sick, and simply want to be left alone to rest and recover.
It is important to remember how territorial dogs can be. When they are in their own yard or bed, they may feel the need to defend it against any perceived threats. They’re also quite protective of their possessions, which usually includes treats or toys.
Dogs of either gender can show aggression, but male dogs do tend to be more aggressive, particularly if they are unneutered. Male dogs have a great deal more testosterone than female dogs do, which naturally causes aggression. This doesn’t mean male dogs are inherently more dangerous than females, it simply means that they’re naturally more inclined towards aggressive behavior.
Usually, this aggression rears itself during mating. Male dogs mate by showing dominance. Neutering a male dog reduces testosterone and takes away much of their desire to assert dominance.
It’s important to keep in mind, however, that female dogs can be aggressive also, and that neutering may not resolve aggression issues in dogs who are already prone to it.
Keeping in mind how territorial dogs are, it’s no surprise that over two-thirds of dog bites occur on their own property. In fact, the majority of people bitten know the dog that attacked them!
This makes being cautious no matter where you are even more important. For example, if you’re over a friend’s house, make sure not to unintentionally upset or threaten the dog. This is true even if you’ve been around the dog before. The dog may take this as a threat to their territory, and act out in defense.
While it’s true that a dog’s breed can come into play when determining their propensity for aggression, it is important to remember that all dogs have the capability to attack. Pit Bulls are responsible for more than half of all fatal dog bites, while Rottweilers and Presa Canarios are responsible for their own sizeable number of injuries.
There is, however, extensive evidence that suggests that breed may not play as large a role as we think, and that legislation banning certain breeds of dog is ineffective in decreasing the total amount of attacks. Any dog can be bred to be aggressive regardless of breed, and so-called “dangerous” breeds can be calm and friendly.
Either way, it’s best to be cautious around any type of dog in order to reduce the risk of an attack.
Children Are Especially Vulnerable
In over half of the recorded number of dog bites, the victim is a child 12 years or younger. This is for two main reasons:
First, children are less likely to be cautious around dogs, and may grab their ears, step on their tails, or otherwise agitate them. Teaching your children how to handle pets, or carefully supervising them while engaging with a dog can help prevent any mishaps.
The other main reason is that children are much smaller than adults. Dogs won’t feel intimidated by them and may be more likely to feel that they can dominate them. This can increase the chances that a dog will bite a child as opposed to an adult.
Statistics show that chained dogs are three times as likely to bite somebody than unchained dogs are. This is because a chained dog feels cornered and threatened more easily, since they cannot retreat or move around freely.
The simple solution is to keep your dog in your home, and when they need activity, walk them on a leash or allow them to only roam free in a fenced-in yard. This keeps them on your property, but gives them the freedom necessary to feel less threatened.
What to Do If You’re Threatened
It’s not difficult to sense when a dog is about to attack. The dog will become very stiff, lower their head, spread their legs, and bare their teeth. They may also growl or bark. Dogs usually give numerous warning signs when they are nervous or agitated, because they would much prefer to retreat than to attack. A dog who attacks feels as though he has been given no other choice.
If you’re around a dog that is showing signs of aggression, it’s important to diffuse the situation quickly. Here’s what you need to do:
- Remain calm. Keep your voice low.
- Do not make sudden movements. Moving quickly will frighten the dog and may provoke an attack. Instead, hold your hands on your side and stand as still as possible.
- Don’t make eye contact. Look away from the dog to avoid threatening or challenging it.
- If the dog knocks you to the ground, curl up in a ball and cover your face and neck.
Treating a Dog Bite
If you are bitten by a dog, it’s important to seek medical attention right away. Left untreated, a bite can quickly become infected, which can lead to fever and more serious illnesses. Rabies in particular is a dangerous and deadly disease, and you should seek immediate medical treatment if you have any suspicions that you might be infected. In cases of critical dog bites, it may be necessary to call 911 or to have someone take you to the hospital emergency room right away. In cases where the bite seems manageable, you may be able to administer some self care at home.
You can treat a bite yourself by washing with warm water, wrapping with clean gauze, and applying antibiotic cream two to three times a day. Keep the bandages clean and expose the bite to air for a few hours a day to help with healing. Avoid touching the bite, and if you must, do so while wearing gloves or with clean hands.
In the end, the majority of dogs that are treated with kindness and love won’t ever bite a human. Dogs are truly man’s best friend. However, being cautious and respecting the dog’s potential to attack can help you prevent serious injury.