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National dog bite prevention week
This past week, June 9-15th, was National Dog Bite Prevention Week. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the United States Postal Service (USPS) have put together this annual campaign to make the public aware of the persistent problem that plagues more than just the letter carrier with the killer Chihuahua at his ankles. More than 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs, and there are some 10 to 20 dog bite fatalities, each year in this country. Most victims are children (less than 12 years old). The week has been designed as an opportunity for animal care and control agencies, humane societies, post offices, public service agencies, veterinarians, dog trainers, educators, physicians, and many others to work together to address this significant public health problem, which is largely preventable through public education. Early and repetitive education of children and parents is essential. Parents of babies, infants, toddlers, and preschoolers need to keep close supervision over their children in the presence of dogs. And close supervision should not be stopped until children can clearly express and exercise their understanding of basic rules of behavior around dogs. Dog bites can be avoided when people behave safely around dogs and pet owners act responsibly. Safe, responsible behavior includes - Always walk your dog on a leash. - Before petting someone else's dog, ask the owner for permission. When petting, pet on the under-side of the dog's neck, rather than on top of its head. [The area on the top of a dog's head and back of his neck are areas strongly related to dominance, and can be perceived as a threat to a dog that doesn't know you.] - When a dog approaches you, stand still and quiet. Keep your hands at your sides. Allow him to sniff you before you reach to pet him. - When you are not walking your dog, keep him indoors with you, or in a fenced yard. Spend time playing with and caring for your dog. - Don't pet or approach a dog while it is eating, sleeping, or guarding something. Pets often guard their food, their babies, and their toys. - Don't reach over a fence to put a dog. - Don't tease dogs when you're playing with them. - Don't run away from a dog that is chasing you. A dog's natural instinct is to chase after something that's running from it. Instead, stand still, let the dog sniff you, and continue to be still and quiet till the dog walks away and leaves you alone. - Don't approach strange dogs, especially if tied or confined. - If you see a dog running loose, and especially if you see more than one dog running loose together, get yourself inside and call animal control. - Spay or neuter your dog. Unneutered dogs are generally more likely to bite. - If you know your dog is a problem w/ postal workers, delivery people, or visitors in general, put him in another room before getting the door. - Don't approach a dog (or other animal) that appears sick or injured. Instead, tell an adult about the animal. Sick/injured animals can be more self-protective. - Children should be discouraged from "hugging" dogs. A hug around a dog's neck seems like a perfectly nice thing from the viewpoint of the hugger; but to a dog this can be perceived as very threatening. - Watch and listen for preliminary warning signs of aggression: Their bodies usually tense/stiffen, eyes may be dark and glassy(pupils dilated), nose may wrinkle, they may snarl, growl, lift-lip (show teeth), snap or bite. - If a dog shows any signs of aggressiveness toward you, report it to the dogs owner, or to animal control. Unreported incidents only increase the likelihood that this will happen to others. - If a dog has shown any signs of aggressiveness toward you, don't attempt to reconcile (make up with the dog). This lets the dog know that you have not gotten its message, and it will probably get more aggressive with further approaches. Leave it alone! - If you are ever bitten, do not pull your hand away sharply. This is a sure way to worsen the wound you receive. - If you have a dog that has ever gotten aggressive, seek professional help to understand, re-condition, and control this behavior. The potential that any dog can bite can be a scary thing. It's important to keep things in perspective. Remember, millions of wonderful, valuable human-dog interactions occur every day without a bite incident. Your knowledge and awareness, and the knowledge and awareness of your children, is the best prevention to controlling and limiting the incidence of dog bites. If you would like a Dog Bite Do's and Don'ts Coloring Page for kids, send me a self-addressed stamped envelope to below address or you can download it from petpsych.com. For more info on Dog-Bite Prevention visit me @ www.petpsych.com.