Locally-Owned in Oakdale and St. Paul, Minnesota

Dog Bite Prevention Part I

Dogs play so many roles in our lives whether they are family companions, working dogs or a mixture of both. They teach us as children about responsibility, empathy, respect and more. While most dogs co-exist with their human packs peacefully, there is no denying the potential danger of a dog bite and the occasional horrifying news reports of a dog bite related death. Lets explore some knowledge about dog bites, behavior and safety.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA):

  • Dogs bite more than 4.5 million people in the U.S. each year.
  • About 20% of dog bite victims need medical attention for their wounds.
  • Children are the most likely to be bitten by dogs, especially under the age of 10 years, and to receive severe dog bite injuries.
  • Most children bitten by dogs are doing normal daily activities and get bitten by a familiar dog.

For many dog lovers, our first thought when crossing paths with a dog is to say hello and meet this new furry friend. As adults most of us have become “dog smart” and wise to which dogs are safe to pet. But children are either too young or naïve to know. It’s our job as adults to teach them about man’s best friend and closely supervise interactions.

How to Read a Dog’s Body Language 

  • Happy, Friendly Dog (It may be okay to pet with permission)
    • Body Language: Loose body, relaxed ears, soft eyes, slightly opened mouth (“smile”).
  • Fearful, Anxious, or Aggressive Dog
    • Stiff posture, hair raised over the back, ears raised, intense eyes, white of the eyes showing (“whale eye”), backing away, cowering, yawning, lip licking, raising of the lip and showing teeth.
  • A wagging tail does NOT always mean a dog is happy and will be friendly when approached. A wagging tail can also mean that a dog is anxious, unsure or even excited with intent to attack. Always Ask for Permission
    • Before approaching and petting a dog, always ask these two questions:
      • Is your dog nice?
      • May I pet your dog?

    These are essential questions to teach children. It may pay in dividends for parents to ask these questions too (even for a dog you already know) in the presence of children, to solidify the lesson and importance of those questions.

    • If the dog owner says it’s okay to pet, allow the dog to sniff you before giving a gentle pet over the back or chest area.
    • If a dog owner declines your request to pet their dog, say “okay, thank you” and go on with your day. There will surely be other dogs to pet.

    What to Do Around An Unfamiliar Dog That is Off Leash

    • “Stand still like a tree.” If an unfamiliar dog approaches your child, teach them to remain calm and stand still like a tree while looking away from the dog. Screaming, staring and running can scare or excite dogs, which may provoke a chase or bite.
    • “Lay like a rock.” If your child is knocked down to the ground by a dog, teach them to curl into a ball (like a rock) with knees tucked into their belly and hands clasped around the back of their neck. The same posture that they learn for tornado drills in school.
    • Tell a trusted adult about any loose animals. If there is a loose dog, it could be a possible danger to people or even to itself with nearby vehicles/roads.

    Doggy Personal Time
    These are times when any dog (even the most friendly) should be left alone. Avoid approaching a dog that is sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy/bone, or mother dogs with their puppies.

    Yellow Dog Project 
    Have you ever met a dog with a yellow ribbon tied to its leash? This is a message to signify that this dog needs a little extra space. This dog may be anxious, recovering from illness/injury or possibly fearful with unpredictable behavior during times of approach and stress. 

    Every Breed is Potentially Dangerous

    Let us address the elephant in the room: Pit bulls. A quick Internet search will certainly tell you that pit bulls are the most dangerous dogs. The Internet wouldn’t lie to us… would it? Well, this breed related danger is not backed by scientific research on reported dog bites. According to this AVMA studyreviewing multiple sources of dog bite reports, there is no evidence that “pit bull type” dogs are more dangerous than any other dog breed. There’s no denying that a pit bull type dog could be dangerous. However, the same danger is possible from an unsocialized and fearful Golden retriever. No matter what breed or mix of breeds your dog is, set them up for success with proper training and socialization.


    Please take the time to educate your child on dog bite prevention. Read Part II of our Dog Bite Prevention blog to learn what dog owners can do to encourage their dogs to have positive social interactions with people and other dogs.




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