It is officially summer, the season of school break, vacations, barbecues and unfortunately, dog bites. To ensure that your family – including your beloved dog – has a safe summer, it’s important to know how to prevent dog bites and what to do when they happen.

Dog Bite Statistics

An estimated 4.7 million dog bites occur in the United States every year and more than 800,000 of them require medical care, according to the American Humane Association. Half of those bites were on children under the age of 12. A Center’s for Disease Control report adds that every day more than 1,000 people need emergency care for dog bites. The average cost of a hospital stay due to a dog bite was $18,500 in 2010.

These dog bite statistics are concerning. The first step of dog bite safety is to understand why dogs bite and how to prevent dog bites. If you are a dog owner, knowing why dogs bite can help you avoid dog bites and protect people and your animal.

These are the top five reasons a dog bites:

  1. 1. Possessiveness – the dog wants to protect its property; food, a toy, its yard and even people.
  2. 2. Fear – the dog is afraid of people, places or situations.
  3. 3. Pain – the dog has an injury, chronic pain associated with old age or is struck.
  4. 4. Maternal instincts – the dog is protecting its young.
  5. 5. Prey instincts – you run (or ride by) and the dog chases.

Vancouver Dog Bite Attorney Prevention

As a dog owner, you can help prevent dog bites by reducing these factors and watching for behavior that indicates a dog is stressed or fearful. The dog may lower its ears, show off its teeth, stop in its tracks or its fur may stand up on its back. While training, socialization and consistent exercise can help a dog deal with stress and react in a non-aggressive manner, it is your responsibility to watch for these signs.

Your dog should be supervised anytime it is around new people, new places and children. More than 80 percent of dog bite fatalities happen when dogs are left unsupervised with children age two or younger.

Dog bite laws in Washington State say a dog owner is liable for dog bites that happen in public places and in their own yards unless it’s proven that your dog was provoked.

What are the warning signs a dog is about to attack?

You may find it alarming that two-thirds of bites occur on or near the victim’s property, and most dog bite victims know the dog. To protect yourself or your children from a dog bite, it’s good to know how to act around dogs and the rules to teach your children. Here are some general rules:

    1. 1. Be calm. Don’t shout or run. If a dog approaches you, stand big and still. Look away from the dog. If you are sitting, you may curl up in a ball and keep your focus down.
    2. 2. Don’t interrupt a dog that is sleeping, eating, nursing or guarding a toy.
    3. 3. Don’t approach a dog that you don’t know. This is the most important rule to teach children. Always ask the owner if it is okay to greet the dog and then touch it lightly and not on the head.
    4. 4. Never hit, slap, bite or pull on a dog’s extremities.

Even if you follow all the guidelines, you or your child may get bitten. In my next post, I will discuss what you should do if and when a dog bite happens.