dog bite prevention week

April 8-14, 2018 is National Dog Bite Prevention Week® sponsored by the National Dog Bite Prevention Coalition. Although any dog can bite, this post is based on recent research into the causes of dog bite injury and is devoted to helping readers recognize situations where a bite injury is imminent. If this blog prevents even one bite injury, it will have achieved its goal.

Telltale Signs
Animal behaviorists talk about a canine body language ladder of aggression. The higher the behavior on the ladder, the level of aggressive behavior increases. Low-risk behaviors include blinking and lip licking. At the top of the ladder is biting. The rungs in between include crouching, hair standing on end, ears pinned back, yawning, tucking the tail between the legs, and spinning. Recognition of canine body language cues is critical to protection against bite injuries. A recent study of an adult’s ability to recognize these canine body language cues found adults observing child-dog interactions do not always recognize anxious or fearful dogs. Important point: be sure you monitor your dog’s interactions with children and remove her if she exhibits anxious or fearful behaviors.

Snarling = Bite Danger
In the past, bite injuries have been linked to dogs tied up on the family’s property. Veterinary researchers at Ohio State University studied the bite history of dogs confined to their family’s property by fences, tethers and electronic fences. Four percent of dogs had bitten a person in the past, and twice that number had bitten another dog. The type of confinement system was not related to a past history of biting, but dogs greeting other dogs or humans by snapping, snarling or growling were more likely to bite than dogs greeting others by sniffing or licking. Important point: protect yourself by steering clear of snapping, snarling or growling dogs.

Children at Risk
The National Trauma Data Bank contains a large amount of information on traumatic injuries. In a paper published just last month, nearly 8,000 dog bite injuries in children under 17 years of age were studied over a seven year period. One-third of the injuries were to children less than two years of age and another third were girls six to twelve years of age. Eighty percent of the bites occurred at home and by a dog known to the family rather than a stray dog. Important point: always supervise dog-child interactions as children may be too young to recognize warning signs of an impending dog bite.

Friendly Dogs Can Bite
A dog that is normally very friendly may bite if put in the right situation. Resource guarding and pain are two common reasons a friendly dog may bite. A tragic story from a local television channel reported bites to the face of a toddler who tried to take a bone away from a friendly dog. Important point: never take food away from a dog. Teach your dog the “drop it” command for the times when he picks up some undesirable treat from the sidewalk. If a friendly dog is sick, injured or painful, he may bite. Important point: if you find an injured dog, alert the authorities and let professionals transport the injured dog to a veterinary hospital.

Download a cute, informative and FREE poster on dog body language.

Dog Bites Happen to Everyone, Even Me!

May 20-26, 2012 is Dog Bite Prevention Week. Dog bites are a serious public health issue. In the United States, 4.7 million bites are estimated to occur each year. Children ages 5-9 are the most common victims of dog bites, but everyone is at risk.

I want to share my personal dog bite story and one that happened to my friend Susan the very same day.

You may immediately think that I was bitten by one of my dog patients. Not this time. I was walking down the hall of my apartment building just as the door to the service elevator opened. Thinking someone would come out of the door with their arms full; I stood still, away from the service elevator door, so the person could easily pass when the door opened. When it opened, out came a dog on a leash. My neighbor did not have a good hold on the leash, her dog jumped up on me, and, unprovoked, bit my arm. Fortunately, my arm was only bruised and the dog had been vaccinated for rabies. The dog owner’s veterinarian provided an official rabies vaccination certificate and there was no need for alarm.

Susan’s story is not as simple. While at an outdoor café, Susan saw a cute dog and asked the owner’s permission to pet it. Permission was granted and as soon as Susan began to pet the dog, it bit her on the hand causing serious bleeding. In the fray, the dog and the owner disappeared, Susan was taken to the emergency room, and because the dog’s rabies vaccination status was unknown, she had to get the series of rabies shots for her own safety.

Fur the Love of Pets readers can learn some valuable lessons from these two stories:

  • Always follow the rules for safe interaction with dogs. To view a video, click here.
  • Following the rules does not guarantee safety, and children interacting with any dog should always be supervised. Both Susan and I followed the rules for safe interaction with dogs. Susan asked permission from the owner before petting the dog and I stood still as a tree even when the dog rushed toward me.
  • Train your dog to safely interact with strangers so they don’t jump up and bite when they meet new people.
  • Keep your dog current on rabies vaccinations.
  • If your dog bites someone, no matter how embarrassing it is, give your name and address to the person who was bitten. It may save them from needing the series of shots required to prevent rabies, like Susan received.
  • Provide a copy of your dog’s rabies vaccination certificate to the person your dog has bitten. They will sleep a bit easier knowing your dog is protected against rabies and this knowledge may prevent them from needing the human rabies shots.

Susan and I are unusual in that we were adult victims of a dog bite. Children are more likely to be involved. If you have children, the American Academy of Pediatrics has a lesson in dog safety for parents.

How to Prevent Dog Bites

May 17-23 is National Dog Bite Prevention Week and The Animal Medical Center (AMC) is kicking it off on Saturday May 16th with “Don’t Be Ruff,” a dog safety fair at Asphalt Green on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. This event, sponsored by the Veterinary Medical Association of New York City, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Asphalt Green, Ada Nieves and Prima Dog, DoDo, and , Dick Flanagan-State Farm Insurance , is being held from 3:00-5:00 p.m. and is free! The event will be educational and fun for all age groups.

Dog bite injuries are a serious issue and comprise one percent of all emergency room visits. The good news is that dog bites are a preventable health concern. Prevention of dog bite injuries requires education about risk factors and avoidance strategies. These two issues will be the target of Saturday’s “Don’t Be Ruff” event, with educational information developed by AMC staff veterinarians. Friendly well trained dogs will be at the event to allow children to practice safe dog interactions.

Fortunately, due to research by veterinarians and physicians, we have identified easily modifiable risk factors associated with dog bite injuries. Those at greatest risk for being bitten are children between five and nine years of age. Most bite injuries in children are inflicted by a dog known to them, either the family dog or a neighbor’s dog. Postmen, home health care workers and meter readers are also at increased risk. Entering a dog’s “space,” interacting with a dog while it is eating or surprising a sleeping dog can provoke even a gentle dog to bite.

Certain dogs are more likely to be involved in bite injuries. Intact (not neutered) male dogs are three times more likely to be involved in dog bite injuries. Dogs that are kept tied up outdoors can be territorial, making them more prone to biting. Dogs with medical conditions are more likely to bite than dogs that are healthy.

Additionally, more bite injuries occur in the summer months, perhaps because children and dogs are frequently together outdoors or perhaps dogs are cranky, just like the rest of us are when it is hot and sticky outside.

The veterinarians at The Animal Medical Center recommend proper care and training of the family dog to help prevent bite injuries because behavior is a reflection of both emotional and physical health. The AMC suggests every dog see its veterinarian annually to spot any correctable health problems early. Due to their increased risk for biting, all male dogs should be neutered at about six months of age. Spaying is done in female dogs at the same age, but for different health benefits. Obedience training teaches dogs to politely interact with humans and other dogs and will make a dog less likely to bite.

Several simple steps can help protect family members from dog bite injuries. All children should be taught the steps of safely interacting with dogs and coached to ask a dog owner if he/she can pet a dog they meet. Parents should be extra vigilant about dog safety in the summer, since most dog bite injuries occur in the warmer months. All interactions between children and the family dog should be supervised. Playing with your dog is important, but the games you play should not be tug of war or chasing games which could get out of control and lead to an inadvertent bite. When walking your dog, it should be under your control on a leash to allow you to prevent an unwanted interaction with a stranger or strange dog.

Following these guidelines can help keep you and your dog safe. Join us next Saturday, May 16th at “Don’t Be Ruff” and find out how to play it safe with your beloved pets. For additional information about this event, please contact Courtney Rabb at 212.329.8666 or courtney.rabb@amcny.org or visit www.amcny.org.


For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal healthcare, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. Visit www.amcny.org for more information.