March 17, 2021 Dogs Pets and Family

What Major Biden Can Teach Us About Dog Bites

President Joe Biden pets his dog

What Major Biden Can Teach Us About Dog Bites

I follow a lot of dogs, cats, birds and the Bronx Zoo Cobra on Twitter, so the recent bite incident involving Major Biden quickly filled up my Twitter feed. The President’s press secretary, Jen Psaki issued a statement, saying that the dogs “are still getting acclimated and accustomed to their new surroundings and new people.” The 3-year-old German shepherd, Psaki said, was “surprised by an unfamiliar person, and reacted in a way that resulted in a minor injury to the individual.” However, Major is not the first First Dog to bite someone. Barney Bush was caught on camera biting a Reuters reporter in 2008. The two incidents are strikingly similar: a stranger tried to pet the dog, startling him and initiating the bite.

I had a good laugh at the Newsweek collection of posts on the bite incident, because I admire how clever people can be in 160 characters. But dog bites are no laughing matter; they are a serious public health concern.

Dog Bites to Children on the Rise

In a recent article, the New York Times reports that pediatric emergency room physicians are seeing more bite injuries in children during the pandemic. The causes for this increase probably include more dogs being adopted during the pandemic as well as families spending more time at home in close quarters with their dogs. These days everyone is a bit testy and tempers flare easily.

Preventing Bite Injuries

Those bitten by the First Dogs, Major and Barney, broke a cardinal rule of interacting with strange dogs. They startled the dog and the dog responded by biting. Just like people, not all dogs want to be touched by strangers. Always ask the owner or handler of the dog if you can pet the dog. If the answer is yes, be sure the dog is aware of you and move slowly to pet the dog. Watch the dog’s body language and back away if the dog curls his lip, growls or indicates displeasure. Never take a toy, bone or food away from a dog. If you are a new dog owner, teach the “Leave It” command rather than pulling something out of your dog’s mouth. Finally, if you find yourself being attacked by a dog, don’t run, stay still and protect your face with your arms.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have excellent information on interacting safely with dogs. If you are a teacher or home schooling your children due to the pandemic, American Humane has lesson plans on interacting safely with dogs.

Tags: dog bite prevention, Dog bites, dogs, Major Biden, Presidential Pets, Rescue Dogs,

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