In Dog Bite Prevention Part I, we discussed how to read a dog’s body language and what parents should teach their kids about dog bite prevention. But how can dog owners encourage positive social interactions in order to prevent an incident? Here are a few tips:
- Teach puppies that it’s okay to gently mouth during play but it’s never okay to truly bite at a person or other pet.
- Do NOT punish or try to eliminate normal dog communication such as growling. If a dog appears fearful and begins to growl, he is indicating that he wants space. If you repeatedly tell him not to growl, he may stop growling and instead move straight to a more aggressive form of communication (such as biting) to get space.
2. Doggy School
- Not only do dogs learn basic commands and manners in doggy school, but they also get to meet new people and dogs. This is vital to healthy development.
- Already have the basics down? Consider branching out into other fun dog classes like agility, flyball, therapy, tracking, nose work, and more! There are even programs available to help harness breed related instincts. For example, train a herding dog to herd yoga balls (Treibball) like sheep on command.
- Introduce dogs to new people often. Men and children tend to be a bit scarier to dogs so be sure to include them on the list of new human friends for the dog to meet.
- Host a dog party! It doesn’t have to be a birthday or holiday to invite family, friends and neighbors over! Send out invites for people to come meet the family’s new puppy or dog. Encourage friends to bring children along. Bonus points for providing bags of treats!
4. Children and Dogs
- Never leave young or small children unattended with dogs. Children are unpredictable, fast and boisterous in a small package. This can be very scary for some dogs. A single fast movement or shrill squeal can could be enough to trigger an otherwise nice dog to bite a person.
- Teach your children to respect dogs. Children do not like to be teased, woken up from sleep, trampled, etc… Dogs do not enjoy these things either. Go here for more tips on what kids should never do when interacting with both familiar and unfamiliar dogs.
5. Safe Zone
- Dogs should always be on a leash or inside an inescapable fenced yard while outdoors.
- Every dog should have access to an indoor safe zone like a kennel, dog bed, or private room. This is a designated place for the dog to retreat to when he or she is stressed.
If a dog continues to struggle with training and socializing, it’s important for dog owners to admit that there is a problem. Please do not force your timid dog to experience new situations (such as the dog park, a café patio outing, or meeting too many new people at once) that may worsen his or her anxiety. If your dog has shown fearful, anxious, or aggressive tendencies, contact your family veterinarian. Your veterinarian can guide you toward a resolution or refer you to a local behaviorist if necessary.