Friday, May 24, 2013

Dog Bite Prevention

Well the American Veterinary Medical Association has designated the week ending on May 25 as "National Dog Bite Prevention Week".

I think it may be prudent of me to mention some things about dog bites. I have been around dogs for most of my life. I suppose than means  I have been around dogs for about 47 years now. I have been bitten on more than one occasion and, in case you are in suspense here, it hurts.

Each time that I was bitten, I can directly trace it back to something that I did not understand about the dog's behavior. Also in each instance the dog gave warning signs that I was either ignorant of or that I just ignored. With very few exceptions, most dog bites are preventable. 

A stressed dog is likely to bite and there are dog body language indicators of stress. Growling, showing of teeth, etc. are some of the more obvious signs but to a more experienced observer there are more subtle signs like stiffened posture, tail position, etc. It is a little beyond the scope of this post to teach all the signs but, be aware that most of the time, the dog gives ample warning before biting.

I used to warn the people that I worked with at Petco that perhaps the most dangerous and underestimated dogs in terms of biting an employee, are probably the little dogs that people have in shopping carts or carry in their arms. Please be careful trying to pet these guys! If they are a little stressed, it can quickly escalate mostly because the dog feels trapped in the cart or because the person is holding him. 

It is also a good idea to ask the handler before petting or approaching a dog that you do not know. And even with permission, be careful how you approach the dog. Never tower over the dog. Avoid petting the dogs head. I always slowly approach making a large arc (not directly walking up to the dog) from the side of the dog I offer a closed fist. If the dog sniffs and seems relaxed, I pet under the chin or on the back. Never on top of the head.

These are just a few of the basics. There is some very good information on the American Veterinary Medical Association web site at :

I will end with a story that indicates how a dog bite can be a very dangerous thing. It also demonstrates that I too am more than capable of doing stupid things:

Many years ago, I guess about 15 years ago now, I lived in Port Charlotte, Florida. I had recently moved there from the Atlanta Area. I took my Beagle named Boomer with me. At that time Boomer was about 7 years old. Boomer and I had a lot of fun together and spent most of our time together. Boomer and I were getting ready to go to Atlanta to spend Thanksgiving with my family.  Well, I was packing and Boomer was sleeping on my pillow on the bed. Boomer was a rescue dog. I adopted him when he was 9 months old. Sadly, he was abused as a puppy. We had to be careful waking him because he scared really easily. He also did not like anything or anyone near his muzzle. Well, I accidentally woke him and got a little too close to his muzzle doing it. He bit me on the lip. He cut it open good. Blood was everywhere. Boomer went back to sleep as I ran to the bathroom to tend to my lip. I had to go to the hospital emergency room in this small Florida retirement community. After spending several hours in the emergency room, I got several very painful stitches in my lip. The point of this story is that Boomer gave me many warning signs that I ignored or forgot about. He was always anxious when people got too close to his muzzle (as most dogs are). I also made the mistake of carelessly waking him. You should always be careful when waking a dog. Absolutely do not get near the face when you do it. I really, to this day, do not think that he realized he had bitten me. I am not sure he even completely woke from his sleep. When I came back all bandaged up, he was my best friend. He was worried about me and would not leave my side. Boomer and I did not make it to Atlanta for Thanksgiving that year. We had turkey in Port Charlotte with the natives. Well, Boomer had turkey, I think I had some sort of liquid for the next week or so :).

So, the lesson that I hope you will get from the my dog bite experience with Boomer is to be aware that  any dog is capable of biting. You must watch for the warning signs. But, if you know what to look for it is pretty easy. You must also be careful in approaching strange dogs. This is particularly true of stray  dogs. 

I will be happy to talk to you about Dog Safety at anytime. I will also be happy to demonstrate to you how to approach a strange dog using Copper to help me demo. Contact me if you are interested.

Till Next Time


William Moore Canine Training

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