How to Prevent Dog Bites

angry dog annoyed by touching
That's too close!. Les Hirondelles Photography/Moment/Getty Images

Dog bite prevention is a necessity in today's world. Dogs are everywhere, and some are friendlier than others. However, it is important to understand that any dog is capable of biting, regardless of breed or size. Even the nicest dog can snap or bite when injured or afraid.

All children and adults should learn how to keep themselves safe around dogs. Most importantly, dog owners must be responsible for their dogs. Fortunately, dog bites can be prevented if the proper measures are taken; responsible dog ownership and education of the public are the keys to keeping everyone safe.

Why Do Dogs Bite?

Most often dogs bite people when they feel threatened in some way. It's a natural instinct that is still present in domesticated dogs, which is why it's important for everyone who interacts with dogs to understand what may provoke this aggressive behavior.

  • Dogs may bite in defense of themselves, their territory, or a member of their pack. Mother dogs will fiercely protect their puppies as well.
  • Startling a dog, such as waking one up or a child suddenly approaching from behind, can provoke a dog bite.
  • Running away from a dog, even if it's during play, can provoke them to bite. They may think it's part of the fun at first, but even that can turn to aggression quickly.
  • Dogs who are in a fearful situation may bite whoever approaches them. This may be something as severe as being abused or abandoned by the side of the road, or it may be something you perceive as ordinary, such as a loud noise.
  • Injury and illness are a common reason as well. If a dog is not feeling well, they may not even want to be approached or touched their favorite people.

How to Stop Dog Bites

As a dog owner, you must take responsibility for training your dog and keeping them under control at all times. You are responsible for your dog's behavior and are the first line of defense in preventing dog bites. It's important to do whatever you can to keep your dog from biting, and these tips can help:

  • At the very least, put your dog through basic training. Continue to keep up with a training program throughout your dog's life to reinforce the lessons you've taught them.
  • Socialize your dog. Allow your dog to meet and interact with different types of people under calm and positive circumstances, including children, disabled persons, and elderly people. Expose your dog to various situations on a regular basis, such as other animals, loud noises, large machines, bicycles, and anything else that might cause fear. Start at the youngest age possible, and keep the experiences positive.
  • Learn your dog's body language, as well as key signs that may lead to a bite. When you're around people, pay attention to your dog and know when things may be leading to aggression. Stop it or remove your dog from the situation before it escalates.
  • Do not discipline your dog with physical, violent, or aggressive punishments. Opt for positive reinforcement before resorting to the use of aversives. Remember to reward your dog for good behavior.
  • Always keep your dog on a leash or in a fenced area. Know your dog well before letting it off-leash in permitted areas. Keep your dog in your sight at all times.
  • If you suspect or know that your dog has fearful or aggressive tendencies, always warn others. Do not let your dog approach people and other animals unless the situation is highly controlled. Use a muzzle if necessary.
  • Keep your dog's vaccinations current (especially rabies) and visit your vet routinely for wellness check-ups.

How to Interact With Dogs

Dogs are cute and often friendly, so it's easy to get excited when you see one. However, they can quickly turn on someone they don't know. Even if you don't have a dog yourself, it's important to know proper behavior for interacting with dogs and how and when to approach one. Teach these things to children as well so everyone knows what to do to prevent dog bites.

  • Never try to approach or touch an unfamiliar dog without first asking for the owner's permission. If an owner is not present, do not go near the dog.
  • When meeting an unknown dog, allow the dog to come to you. Crouch down or turn to the side. Let him sniff your hand before you pet him.
  • Do not put your face close to an unknown dog; this includes "hugs and kisses."
  • Understand dog body language. Most dogs will show specific warning signs before biting.
  • If you are cornered by a dog, remain still and avoid eye contact. Never run and/or scream. When the dog stops paying attention to you, slowly back away.
  • If you're knocked over by a dog, fall to your side in a fetal position, covering your head and face. Remain very still and calm.
  • Never approach a dog that is eating, sleeping, or caring for puppies. Dogs in these situations are more likely to be protective and can become startled.
  • Never leave young children or babies alone with a dog for any reason.
  • Do not approach, touch, or attempt to move an injured dog. Instead, contact a veterinary professional or animal control for assistance.

    If a Dog Bite Occurs

    If a dog bites a person, it's important to act quickly. The dog owner should confine the dog, then immediately assist the victim. The victim should wash the bite thoroughly with soap and water if possible, then seek immediate medical attention.