Fight the Bite: Tips to Prevent Dog Bites

by Lee Chambers

April 8-14 is Dog Bite Prevention Week. It’s important to keep in mind that, in certain circumstances, the most unlikely dog may exhibit aggressive behavior or bite. More than 4 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, most often by dogs they know. We’d like to offer some tips to help prevent dog bites, or prevent your dog from injuring someone

It’s important to use caution in approaching any dog, whether familiar or not. Here are some guidelines:

  • Respect that dog’s space, and that fact that he will protect it. Don’t approach a strange dog who is tied up, in a car or otherwise confined

  • Don’t pet a dog without letting him see and sniff you. This lets him decide if he wants to interact with you

  • Don’t approach a pet who’s eating, chewing on a toy, sleeping or tending to puppies. This is “me time” for dogs, and human interaction can be seen as an annoyance or threat.

  • Pay attention to the dog’s body language. Watch for a tense body, stiff tail, eyes rolled so that whites are visible, head or ears pulled back, intense stare and backing away. These signs are seen in dogs that don’t want interaction

  • Teach your children to not approach a barking or growling dog. They should also be taught to always ask permission to pet a friendly dog from the dog’s person

  • It’s important to oversee interactions between children and dogs, especially if the dog is unfamiliar with that child. Teach children to treat animals gently and with respect

If you have a dog, there are four basic steps you should follow to prevent dog bites:

  • Never let your dog roam unleashed. MA leash laws are decided individually by municipalities. In most towns and cities like Northampton, Springfield and Greenfield, it’s unlawful to walk with an unleashed dog

  • Spay or neuter your dog to reduce their desire to roam or fight with other dogs

  • Socialize your dog. Introduce him to a variety of people and situations so he can adapt to normal circumstances with confidence instead of fear and nervousness. Likewise, don’t keep him tied up outside for extended periods. When your dog feels like a member of the family, he’ll be less likely to become isolated and act dangerously

  • Attend training classes with your dog to provide him with socialization and to learn correct training techniques

Training doesn’t just involve what’s learned in class. For example, don’t encourage your dog to chase after or attack someone, even in fun. Your dog won’t be able to understand the difference between playtime and real-life situations. Watch your pet for signs of aggression toward other animals or people. If you see it happen, seek professional help from your veterinarian or a qualified dog trainer. If you don’t have a vet, or need information about trainers, you can call Dakin at (413) 781-4000 and we can make recommendations.

It’s always important to be mindful of your dog’s comfort level in different settings. If he doesn’t like loud noises or big crowds, keep him safely home when you attend cook-outs or large gatherings. If he overreacts to strangers coming into the house, put him in another room when a visitor, service or delivery person arrives. When possible, avoid exposing your dog to situations where his anxiety might increase.

If you are bitten:

  • Don’ panic. Wash the wound immediately with soap and warm water and seek medical attention

  • It’s important to report the bite to your local animal control office, and tell the officer as much as you can about the dog, including the owner’s name and where they live. If the dog is a stray, the officer will want to know where you saw him, and in what direction he went.



Go back