By Courtney Emken
co-written by Bart Emken, CPDT-KA & Jen Larson, KPA-CTP
Dog bites are frightening ordeals for everyone involved. It can be difficult to stay focused and calm in the midst of all the panic, commotion, and confusion. As the owner of the biting dog, it’s your job to be prepared to resolve the situation.
It’s vital that you know what to do if an incident happens, but it’s even more important to understand why dogs bite. This way, you can do your best to avoid it entirely.
Why Do Dog’s Bite People?: A Dog’s Perspective
We’ve built our whole community around dogs, and part of that process has been learning to quickly and effectively deal with dog bites. We’ve seen our fair share, and most often it’s a child who’s been bitten. Nine times out of ten, the parents want to give that dog away, but this is the WRONG reaction.
It may sound strange, but in almost every single case the dog is not at fault. Children don’t typically understand an animal’s sense of boundaries. A bite is usually provoked by sending threatening signals or violating a dog’s space. Children can often do things like:
- Lay on the dog’s bed while they’re using it
- Take a dog’s food or toys away from them
- Pull the dog’s tail or strike them
- Jump onto a dog’s back
- Get too close to a dog’s face
- Physically disturb a sleeping dog
These actions scare dogs and force them to go on the defensive. They may growl, bark, or even bite in response.
Just like how we teach our kids to respect others, we need to teach them to respect dogs. The best thing a parent can do to prevent a bite is to teach their children how to make a dog feel safe and comfortable.
When our son Mason was only three years old, he got grazed on the face by our dog Pepper. Before we rushed to judgement, we learned that Pepper had retreated to a safe place under a table, and Mason had crawled under the table and had been playfully (but forcefully) hitting him on the head. There was no reason to get mad at the dog. He had only acted appropriately. Instead, we told Mason what he did wrong.
What You Should Do If Your Dog Bites Someone
If your dog is out in public, and bites a stranger, it’s imperative that you act quickly and carefully follow these instructions:
First, remove your dog from the situation or make sure they’re safely restrained. While it may seem obvious, everyone (including your dog) needs to feel safe again before you can work towards a resolution.
Remember to be as polite and calm as possible during the conversation. Usually, all the other person wants is an apology, and an offer to pay the medical bill. If you make a bigger fuss than necessary, they may try to get your dog declared dangerous.
Reassure them that you’re going to take care of it. You don’t necessarily have to admit fault, but not taking responsibility is the biggest mistake that can derail your talk.
Next, collect your vaccination records. The other person will want to know that your dog has had a rabies vaccination. Having the documents in order and prepared ahead of time can potentially save your dog’s life.
Your dog must have a rabies vaccination, we cannot stress this enough. The only way to test for rabies to is to kill the animal and do an autopsy. If your dog does not have their shots, or you can’t prove that they do, they could be put down.
After taking care of any medical issues and paperwork, you’ll want to hire a trainer. Dog bites are not something you want to take on alone. Dogs bite for four main reasons:
- They’re afraid
- They’re guarding a resource or property
- They weren’t properly socialized
- They never learned bite inhibition
It may seem like a one-time occurrence, but you don’t know what could trigger a bite in the future. It’s imperative that you get help from a qualified and experienced trainer ASAP.
You need to get positive, reward-based training before you take them back out in public. Even a small walk around the park is too risky. Dogs who repeatedly bite can be subjected to fines, forced into quarantine, or even put down.
All that being said, dogs really aren’t out to bite anyone. Dogs throw out a million different signals to tell us they’re uncomfortable. They’re saying “I don’t want to bite you, but if you keep coming I’ll have to!” To avoid bites, we must listen to them, and carefully watch their body language.
If you have any questions about how to prevent bites, or just want some advice, please contact us today!
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