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Biting: Causes, Prevention, and Control

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a federal agency which monitors and controls human diseases, estimates over 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs in the United States every year. One in five of those bitten requires medical attention.

In addition to physical injuries, people, especially children, can be emotionally scarred as well. It is sad, indeed, when a person who has suffered a dog bite can no longer feel comfortable around animals, and may in fact, be terrified of them. Such people lose a wonderful aspect of their lives and a chance to have a meaningful human-animal bond.

Reduce the risk of your dog biting

There is no way to guarantee that your dog will never bite someone. But you can significantly reduce the risk if you:

  • Spay or neuter your dog. This may reduce your dog’s desire to roam and fight with other dogs. Neutered dogs are 2.5 times less likely to bite than intact dogs.
  • Socialize your dog. Introduce your dog to many different types of people and situations so that he or she is not nervous or frightened under normal social circumstances.
  • Train your dog. Participating in puppy socialization and dog training classes is an excellent way to help you and your dog learn good obedience skills. Training your dog is a family matter, and every member of your household should be involved and use the same training techniques.
  • Teach your dog appropriate behavior. Avoid playing aggressive games with your dog such as wrestling, tug-of-war, or ‘siccing’ your dog on another person. Do not allow your puppy to bite or chew on your hands. Set appropriate limits for your dog’s behavior. Do not wait for an unacceptable behavior to become a bad habit, or believe your dog will ‘grow out of it.’ If your dog exhibits dangerous behavior toward any person, particularly toward children, seek professional help from your veterinarian, an animal behaviorist, or a qualified dog trainer. Your community animal care and control agency may also offer helpful services. Dangerous behavior toward other animals may eventually lead to dangerous behavior toward people, and is also a reason to seek professional help.
  • Be a responsible dog owner. Obtain a license for your dog as required by law, and provide regular veterinary care, including rabies vaccinations. For everyone’s safety, do not allow your dog to roam. Make your dog a member of your family. Dogs who spend a great deal of time alone in the backyard or tied out on a chain are more likely to become dangerous. Dogs who are well-socialized and supervised rarely bite.
  • Err on the safe side. If you do not know how your dog will react to a new situation, be cautious. If your dog may panic in crowds, leave him at home. If your dog overreacts to visitors or delivery or service personnel, keep him in another room. Work with professionals to help your dog become accustomed to these and other situations. Until you are confident of his behavior, however, avoid stressful settings

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