How to Prevent a Dog Bite

by Nancy Hassel,

As someone who has been working with dogs on nearly a daily basis since I was a kid, preventing a dog bite seems to come naturally to me, and by applying common sense to every situation with a dog in order not to get bit, has helped tremendously.  But not everyone is aware of dog body language, behavior, how to act around dogs, etc.


Recently a good friend of mine was bitten pretty badly on her hand by a Jack Russell Terrier, that flew off his property and was attacking, literally going for her Old English Bulldog’s throat.  Luckily for the Jack her bulldog didn’t react to the situation, but my friend, the bulldog’s owner who was walking her leashed dog in a neighborhood said she had to keep pushing the Jack away and got bit in the process. You can’t blame her wanting to protect her dog from being hurt.  This occurs more often that you would think – we only hear about attacks in the news when it involves a certain media sensationalized breed – but all and every type, size, and breed of dog can bite.

National Dog Bite Prevention Awareness Week, April 7 – 13, 2019, here are some tips to help the everyday dog owner:

  • Ask if you can pet the dog.  This seems like such an obvious thing to do – but not everyone asks.  How do you know the dog being walked towards you is friendly?
  • Teach your kids to ask you first if they can pet a dog – then have them ask the dog owner before they run up and pet the cute puppy coming along.  Dogs can get nervous (especially if they are not used to kids running up to them), and kids often times can be overzealous.  A good rule of thumb, as the dog owner, is to instruct the kids approaching, ‘one at a time’ as they come up and pet the dog.  Also, instruct them to let the dog sniff them first.  As the owner you need to watch your dog’s body language – if he is backing away from the kids, trying to hide behind you, putting his hair up (hackles between should blades), or worse curls his lips or growls?  If this happens tell the children, ok thanks for petting him we are going to be on our way, and keep on walking.  Not all dogs like kids.
  • Don’t go up to strange dogs.  If you are not an expert, a dog trainer, and if you see a loose dog and want to help it, call your local animal control or animal shelter so they can send a professional out to help the dog.
  • Some dogs are food and toy guarders – meaning the may growl or lunge at you if you are near them while they are eating or playing with a toy.  This behavior can be corrected with a good dog trainer, (and that the owners actually listen to the trainer’s instructions!), but if you have a dog like this – the dog is warning you with that growl.  Take it seriously.  But seek out a professional dog trainer – many times an owner has helped the dog develop this bad habit unknowingly – it’s no reason to give up on a dog.
  • Teach your children and their friends not to tease or bully your dog.  They would not want to be teased, and either does a dog.
  • A tired dog is a good dog.  Many people don’t take their dogs for actual walks and rely on just using their yard for the dog.  Dogs bond with us, learn better, get mental and much need physical exercise while on a walk.  Much more then just playing with them in your yard – try to start walking your dog more on a regular basis. You will see a huge difference.
  • Be sure to have your dog go for well-checks yearly at their veterinarian.  Sometimes a change in behavior is a medical condition.
  • Hire a professional dog trainer.  You may have to interview and try a few different dog trainers to find the right match for you, your dog, your family.   You will be able to learn so much about dog behavior and a good dog trainer will not only train your dog but you in the process as well!

Dogs are such a wonderful part of our lives, but learning how to understand them better, interact your dog (or your neighbor’s dog) can make a big difference in avoiding being bit and having fun with our dogs.  Dogs are not children – while we think of them as family members, of course, they are still animals first, with teeth!

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