Given that nearly 40% of California households have at least one dog, and the CDC reports that there are 4.7 million dog bites in the U.S. each year, the risk of a dog bite happening can feel unreasonably high.
Dogs are known for being loyal protectors of both their masters and their territory. When a perceived threat causes their instincts to kick in, the result can be a dog bite. Kids are more likely than adults to be bitten by a dog, and the injuries can be catastrophic.
This article provides a guide to reducing the risk of dog bites. Whether you’re a dog owner concerned about the risk of liability or a parent trying to protect your child, you’ll find some helpful tips about preventing dog bites here.
Why Do Dogs Bite?
Generally speaking, a dog bites as a reaction to something in their environment. The most common situations that can cause this reaction include:
- Someone gets too close to the dog’s master
- The dog is defending their home or territory
- The dog feels territorial over food, toys, or puppies
- Someone startles the dog with a fast approach
- The dog is injured, ill, or arthritic and does not want to be touched or approached
- The dog becomes aggressive in response to teasing or other provocation
- The dog bites during overzealous play
There are various stimuli that can cause a dog to bite, and the list above is nowhere near exhaustive. While an owner or member of the public might not be able to control some or any of the variables above, being able to recognize a dog’s body language or perceive the risk of an attack can go a long way in preventing dog bites from occurring in the first place.
Overall Tips to Reduce the Risk of Dog Bite Injuries
Understanding a little bit about dog behavior and taking some basic precautions can drastically reduce your risk of sustaining a dog bite. While even the most cautious individual can’t completely eliminate the risk of being bitten, the following tips can help:
- If you have children, avoid allowing your child to pet or interact with an unfamiliar dog.
- Never approach or pet a strange dog you don’t know without the owner’s permission.
- If a dog seems agitated, avoid yelling or sudden movements, which can escalate the situation.
- Do not enter someone’s property if they have a dog until you confirm that the dog is restrained or under control by the owner.
Tips to Prevent Children from Being Bitten by Dogs
Children are especially vulnerable to being bitten because they don’t have the life experience of adults and tend to be more boisterous and excited around animals.
If you are bringing your child around a dog, be aware of the following:
- Do not allow children to tease dogs by taking away food, toys, or treats.
- Do not allow children to be excessively physical with dogs by pulling at their ears or tails or hitting them.
- Do not allow children to ride a dog, even your own dog.
- Do not disturb a dog when they are sleeping or eating.
- When giving a child responsibility for a pet, be sure to supervise their behavior, and don’t expect too much too soon.
- Report any stray dog sightings in the neighborhood.
Signs of Aggressive Body Language (and Other Dangerous Cues) in a Dog
One of the most cautious tactics you can take to reduce your risk of dog bite injuries is to be aware when a situation is about to spiral out of control.
Knowing the signs that a dog is about to act aggressively, attack, or bite can mean the difference between diffusing a situation or taking a trip to the emergency room.
While you probably already know to look out for signs like barking, growling, or snarling, other clues to look out for include:
- A dog that has an obvious injury, such as a limp, gash, bandage, or cone
- A dog wearing a yellow ribbon is an indicator that the dog needs space
- A dog wearing an orange bandana is usually not good with other dogs
- A dog wearing a service vest that says “do not pet” should not be approached
- An owner that hesitates when you ask if you can pet their dog
- A dog that is not on a leash can move more quickly and be dangerous
- A dog with pulled-back ears
- A dog that is making sudden or jerky movements
Tips for Dog Owners to Prevent Dog Bites
One of the biggest issues dog owners face is having young children in the house at the same time as dogs. We recommend the following tips to protect children from dog bites in and out of the house:
- Teach your children to respect dogs and be aware of when a dog does not want to be touched.
- Divide your home into various “zones” to prevent interactions when there is not sufficient adult supervision.
- Socialize your dog as soon as possible. If you adopt your dog as a puppy, you can begin training early. If you adopt an older dog from a shelter, the dog may need additional training to avoid aggressive or reactive tendencies.
- Supervise your dog at all times, especially during interactions with strangers or unfamiliar people.
- Remove your dog from a situation when they appear to be agitated or overly excited.
- Be sure to have a safe space for your dog to decompress, especially around kids, visitors, or public areas.
- Give your dog plenty of exercise and stimulation to prevent boredom and unruly behavior.
- Regularly visit the vet to ensure your dog is not dealing with an injury or illness that increases the likelihood of a bite.
Contact an Experienced Orange County Dog Bite Attorney
No matter how well prepared and informed you are about dog bites, there’s still the chance that you or a loved one can be bitten. If a dog has bitten you or a loved one, please contact the expert dog bite lawyers at the Khalil Law Group for a free consultation by calling (714) 617-7870.