Tips for Preventing Dog Bites

While you can’t imagine your fur baby ever being anything but wonderful, we owe it to them to remember that they are animals and sometimes natural instinct kicks in — taking over their usually good manners.

The unfortunate truth is that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that two percent of the U.S. population is bitten by a dog each year. This means that we should all be careful when approaching a dog we don’t know. It also means that pet owners need to be extra diligent. And in addition to safety measures, having the right policy in place to protect your finances if something should happen is just as important. The following tips for preventing dog bites will help you be a more responsible dog owner and give you sound advice on how to manage dog bites.

Tips for Dog Owners

We all want the best for our furry buddies. And there’s no better way to build a lasting bridge with your dog than to start it with obedience training in those first weeks of bringing the new pup into the family. Take a look at some of the key reasons training your dog benefits everybody:  

Train your puppies well. Let’s start at the beginning. If you’ve just brought a puppy home, build a positive, predictable environment for your new furry friend and you’ll find that the dog will be more obedient when you need it to be. Caring for puppies is a big job. Between housebreaking and mediating the way they interact with young children, there’s a lot for you to manage. Even if you’ve adopted an older dog, it’s important to be consistent and patient as well. You’re not the only one adjusting to a new environment.

The reasons dogs bite. There are many reasons why more than a million people are bitten by dogs every year. To help prevent dog bites from occurring, it’s important to understand the reasons a dog may bite in the first place. Simple actions that seem fun to us are serious business to dogs, like playing a harmless game of tug-of-war. Dogs can bite owners and others because they don’t see things the way we do. A dog will bite when it feels threatened or scared. You may not be aware of a dog’s history, and certain triggers can bring about an acts of aggression. 

Because memories of past trauma can make dogs aggressive — even though no harm was intended — they can feel threatened and bite. Talk to your dog trainer about how to work with your dog when these situations arise. Have treats handy to reward your dog for good behavior when it starts to act or show signs of aggression without being provoked. That way, you can help the dog to associate treats with good behavior and not the trauma.

Enroll in obedience training. Bonding with your pup is key to building trust and predictability and there are few better ways to build healthy habits than under the supervision of a dog-handling expert, like an obedience trainer. Look online for a well-reviewed training group and sign up to get the low down on dog do’s and don’ts. In a few short weeks, you’ll have a better friend in your dog and it’s going to know what you expect when you’re out and about, too.

Preventing Dog Bites

Everyday activities can seem harmless enough, but to dogs, context is everything. Understanding your dog’s background and how it’s been treated can offer up insights on how to best interact. Preventing dog bites is really all about correctly reading and responding to the dog’s body language. Try to avoid situations which cause your pet stress so they’re less likely to bite. Take a look at these go-to tips to help prevent dog bites.

Spay or neuter your pet. This decreases their desire to roam and fight, which also reduces the risk of biting or aggressive behavior.

Know the warning signs. When dogs feel threatened, they usually react defensively. You may find your dog crouching down, with its fur up on end and its tail tucked low in between the legs. Perhaps their eyes will widen and they may show teeth. If the dog starts displaying these signs while out walking, get a firm hold on the leash and move the pup away from the trouble. With the potential for serious injuries in play it’s important to pay close attention to these signs. Train your dog to respond to your commands with positive reinforcement, like offering treats, and you may be able to avoid problems. And now's a great time to consider personal liability insurance coverage which can further protect your finances. Personal umbrella liability insurance is an added safety net to further protect your finances if your dog bites someone and you’re held liable for injuries and damages. Without it, you may have to give up future earnings or sell your assets to pay the outstanding costs that aren’t covered by your primary policy limits.

Get the kids on board. Young children are naturally drawn to hug all that fur, but they need to know how to be safe around a family pet first. Teaching children to understand danger cues and respond appropriately can help prevent a dog from biting. It also can help them understand how to avoid conflict in the first place. Reduce the risk by teaching them what to look for and how to react appropriately.

Dogs require attention. Remember to take your dog on pet-friendly, everyday activities and give them the opportunity for interacting with familiar dogs. Praise their good behavior with positive feedback and yummy treats. Petting the dog has human benefits as well. It’s been shown to reduce blood pressure and improve your mood, so being kind is definitely a win-win.

Socialize your dog. This is one of the great benefits of training: knowing that doggy daycare and dog parks are a possibility now. The more your furry friend gets to interact with people and other animals in a fun environment, the more comfortable and friendly they are!

Follow the rules. Know what your local ordinances are and stay up to date on licensing, rabies vaccinations and keep that pup on a leash when required.

What to Do When Dogs Get Aggressive

If the unexpected happens, it’s important that you know what to do. Ask your obedience trainer about the best way to handle situations that escalate into a dog bite. That way, you’ll have some idea of how to calm things down and maybe even reduce the risk of a bite occurring in the first place. Here are a few pointers on what to do when dogs get aggressive:

Remain calm. The dog will sense your fear — and screaming and running will probably cause him to react aggressively. Try to stand still with your arms down and eyes averted if you’re approached by a dog that’s behaving aggressively.

Move slowly. Put some distance between yourself and the dog by slowly backing away. Try to speak calmly and slip away without exciting it further. Look around for the owner and make them aware that their dog’s displaying some signs that could lead to a bite.

Find a buffer. Protect yourself with the things around you. If you have anything on you or nearby, place it between you and the dog. A purse, a jacket, a bicycle — anything that could protect you from their teeth in the event they lash out. Remember to move slowly to keep things calm.

Seek medical attention. If you are bit, you should seek medical attention immediately. If the pet owner is around, get their phone number and the number of their vet. Respond to the situation like you would if this were a car accident. Take a photo of their ID, look for the dog's rabies vaccination tag, and photograph that if possible. Call 911 if the injuries require immediate attention. If not, make note of where the incident happened and take a picture of the dog too, if you can. You may also have to contact local authorities and file a police report.

Consider a mouth-harnessing lead. Do what you can to prevent your dog from biting others by checking out a gentle lead harness which attaches to a leash and humanely constricts the dog’s mouth from opening when they’re lunging or pulling. It’s a great way to reinforce good behavior as well.

There are other ways you can protect yourself from the fallout of a dog bite — by insuring yourself and your home carefully. Contact your American Family Insurance agent to review your homeowners insurance or your renters insurance policies. Bringing a furry friend into the family will build memories that last a lifetime, and with the right policy in place you’ll feel great knowing your family, your finances and everything you’ve worked so hard for is protected.



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