Dog Bites & Kid Safety: 9 Tips to Prevent Dog Bites (and Keep Dogs Safe, Too!)

In March 2011, I served as an expert witness in a dog bite case in which a child was mauled, and the child’s grandmother who owned the home where the Pit Bull mix lived was prosecuted as responsible. I learned a lot during this trial, one of the biggest lessons having to do with the many misconceptions regarding dogs, dog language, and dog bites. In fact, I address quite a lot of these issues in my thriller SHOW AND TELL, that includes Pit Bulls, dog fighting, and misconceptions about dogs.

Angry aggressive barking dog in a steel cage

How to Stop Dogs Biting

You can’t. All dogs bite. In fact, canine jaws easily tear flesh and break bones. Don’t be fooled by size, either. They may be tiny but even Chihuahua-size pooches expertly use their choppers. And when they’re big dogs like this Belgian Malinois below, the damage can be severe.

portrait of a very angry purebred belgian shepherd malinois

Dog Fights & Dog Bites & Child Dog Bite Safety

All dogs squabble just as all people sometimes get upset and argue, but that doesn’t mean dangerous bites always results. That also doesn’t mean the dog is aggressive. Dogs have exquisite control of their jaws and know exactly how close they can snap without making contact. Pugs don’t miss unless they mean to. Consider air-snaps and bites that DON’T break the skin as calculated warnings. Learning to master the power of their jaws—bite inhibition—allows dogs to make important points and resolve differences without hurting each other, or you.

Children suffer dog bites more often than anyone else. Dog bites injure nearly 5 million people every year. Half of all kids in the United States get bitten by age 12, and five-to-nine-year-old boys are at highest risk. Scary stuff!

Curious chained dog on a pile of wood.

These statistics, though, are somewhat skewed. Every bite is cause for alarm, but did you know that the numbers include ALL dog injuries that break the skin, even “bandaid” situations. That is, if the puppy’s nail scratches the infant, technically it’s reported under bite stats. Bites from working K-9 (police) dogs also are included in the report. Bites to a medical person rendering assistance to an injured, in pain dog also are bundled in these figures.

However, if your child is bitten, he’s 100 percent bitten and it can be a tragedy—one that doesn’t have to happen. Dog bites not only hurt you or your kids, they result in pricy medical bills and insurance rates. Dog bites can lose your dog his home or even his life.

That’s what happened in the dog bite case referenced in the opening. There were no winners–oh, the little girl survived, with scars; her grandmother was acquitted. Buddy, the dog, was killed. You can read details of the case here.

Don't tempt fate! How stooopid is this?

Don’t tempt fate! How stooopid is this?

Most dog bites result from inappropriate interaction with the family pet, with a neighbor’s or a friend’s dog. But you can teach yourself and your kids ways to be safe with these 9 easy tips.

9 Tips To Prevent Dog Bites

  1. Respect Doggy Space. Children should not approach, touch or play with any dog who is sleeping or eating. NEVER approach a tethered or chained dog, which restricts the dog’s movement and elevates his potential for arousal. Mom-dogs caring for puppies are especially protective. Even friendly dogs may react with a bite if they feel their food or toys might be stolen by a playful child.dog tied to a tree
  2. Ask First. Always ask permission of the owner before petting. Not all owners recognize danger signs, though, so when in doubt, decline the petting. Before touching, let the dog sniff a closed hand. Remember that petting the top of the dog’s head can look threatening from a pet perspective, so instead scratch the front of his chest, neck or stroke underneath the dog’s chin.
  3. Supervise. Accidents happen even with friendly dogs. In the court case, above, the dog knew and loved the toddler. Kids, toddlers, adults and dogs make mistakes. An adult should always be present when kids and dogs mix.
  4. Nix the Hugs and Kisses. Kids get bitten on the face most often when they try to hug or kiss the dog. It’s much safer to show your puppy love with a scratch on the chest or side of the neck.
  5. Alert Adults. If a child sees a dog off-leash outside, he should tell an adult immediately. Also alert adults to multiple loose dogs. Groups of dogs egg each other on into a “mob mentality” when individuals in that same group likely would never offer a threat.
  6. Look Away. Eye contact with a dog can be interpreted as a threat or challenge, and set off an otherwise calm dog. Young kids at eye-level with big dogs may pose a challenge without being aware of the danger.
  7. Be A Tree. Teach your child to stand still and quiet around strange dogs—be a tree. Trees are boring, so the dog will go away or at least not be excited. Walking, running, arm-waving and high-pitched loud talking, giggling, and laughing excites the dog even further and invites dogs to play chase-bite games. Even friendly dogs may bite out of enthusiasm, just as well-behaved children might accidentally strike out and hurt a classmate during play. That also works to calm down a puppy that gets too excited during play.
  8. Be A Log. If a puppy knocks the child down, teach her to roll up in a ball and be still—like a log—until the dog goes away. Movement encourages the game of jumping, tugging and wrestling and can escalate the dog’s excitement and tendency to bite.
  9. Train the Puppy. Teach your puppy with love. Dogs bullied or hurt during training can get pushy or aggressive to weaker family members—the kids. Teach kids to enjoy and respect dogs, and socialize puppies to kids so they grow up to enjoy and love each other.

You can learn more about puppy socialization and teaching dogs bite inhibition in my book COMPLETE PUPPY CARE.

Have you ever been bitten by a dog? What were the circumstances? I have…when I was a vet tech. Tell me yours and I’ll tell you mine! What did you learn?

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

ARE YOU AUDACIOUS? JOIN AMY’S STREET TEAM!

TripleA-Logo

JOIN AMY’S STREET TEAM OF
AUDACIOUS ALLIES!

In the words of Velma Kelly (from “Chicago”), “I can’t do it alone!”

Actually, authors have very little to do with attaining success. READERS create author success by reading/liking the books, posting positive reviews and then recommending books they love to everyone they know.

That’s only one reason I’ve created AMY’S AUDACIOUS ALLIES, aka TRIPLE-A TEAM. I’m also passionate about mentoring but have limited time so this is one way to pay-it-forward without bankrupting my energy, LOL!

The TRIPLE-A TEAM is a select group of 50-75 members given exclusive access to early chapters and advance readers copies (e-versions) of forthcoming books, first dibs on give aways and a private forum to discuss our love of books and pets–and yes, help share my books in reviews, social media, blogs . . . whatever you want!

FIND AMY’S BOOKS AT AMAZON, BARNES & NOBLE, KOBO, AUDIBLE, iBOOKS

BOOKS-ALL-NEWI also want to share some of the great pet care and fiction books from colleagues, too (did you SEE that haul of books I got from Thrillerfest?). Heck, I get lots of great pet products that my fur-kids can’t always use (don’t tell Magical-Dawg!), and would be delighted to pass ’em on to members of the TRIPLE-A TEAM.

And for those that want ’em, I’ll create a TRIPLE-A TEAM BADGE you can share/post on your personal blogs, websites, Facebook pages, etc. I’ll set up a special members-only FaceBook group, too, where we can support each other–I want y’all to make this group into something valuable for you.

Apply with the form below (it’s filling up fast!), and I’ll let you know if there’s an opening, and send info about next steps as soon as I can. Please be patient–I may be traveling (and collecting more goodies for give-aways!).

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

#Puppies Book & Article Winners at #Dogs Writers Association Banquet!

Image courtesy of DepositPhotos.com

Image courtesy of DepositPhotos.com

The Dog Writers Association of America banquet was held last night in New York City. It’s traditionally held the night before Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and I’ve had the great joy and honor to attend both events several times. But not last night–due to travel constraints *cough-BLIZZARD-cough* and work issues, I wasn’t able to attend, despite knowing that I had a couple of entries in the running.

puppiescoverMy book COMPLETE PUPPY CARE was nominated for a Maxwell Medallion in the category of Reference Books. I received the Nomination Certificate some time ago and am deeply honored. You can see all the regular category winners here. I hope that you’ll recommend the award-winning book to anyone with a new puppy in their future!

(Equal time for Complete KITTEN Care!)

Much of the book is based on research and articles I’d written over the past three years for my puppies.about.com site, and so this was particularly sweet for me. As many of y’all know, my contract with that company was abruptly cancelled last summer–for those morbidly curious, details here. Ya know, the best “revenge” is always success, LOL!

So an even sweeter recognition came when I won a DWAA Special Award last night for an article written for the puppies.about.com site titled “AKC Canine Good Citizenship Programs.” The information from that article of course is also included in the book. You can see the list of all the special awards winners here.

AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy and Canine Good Citizen Award

Sponsored by the American Kennel Club, this award is for the best writing about the AKC Canine Good Citizen Program or the puppy level of CGC, AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy.

Recognized as the ‘gold standard’ for family dog manners, CGC and AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy focus on teaching good manners to dogs and responsible dog ownership to dog owners. This award is a $500.00 cash award.

CONGRATULATIONS to all of the nominees and winners! I am very fortunate to live in a world and participate in a community of professional communicators dedicated to sharing life-saving and relationship-saving information about the dogs we love!

Now then–how many of y’all have taken your puppy through the CGC or S.T.A.R. Puppy Programs? Or how about the AKC Community Canine program also mentioned in the article?

And…how many of y’all will be watching Westminster tonight and tomorrow night on TV? *raising paw* Magical-Dawg and I will be rooting for the…well, you know. *s*

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

#Blizzard Hazards and Carbon Monoxide Danger

Dog dressed with hat, scarf and sweater

Photo courtesy of DepositPhotos.com

There’s a major disconnect for me today–while much of the East is dealing with the 2015 Blizzard, here in N. Texas our forecast is for a 70-degree sunny day. But that’s predicted to change very soon, and Magical-Dawg can’t wait. A few years ago, a similar blizzard shut down the whole area for more than a week. That’s what inspired the setting for my first mystery/suspense Lost And Found.

COLD WEATHER ISSUES FOR PETS

When cold weather descends, it impacts more than the shiver reflex. Last week the blog covered what constitutes old age in cats, and in fact our senior citizen dogs are most susceptible to cold temps. Don’t tell him, but at age 8, Magic is considered “mature.”

Old dogs get less cold tolerant as they age, because they lose muscle and fat mass that insulates, increases their metabolism, and keeps them warm. Aging skin and fur also tends to get thinner. Little dogs have less body mass to generate natural heat, too, and often benefit from a doggy sweater especially when they must do outdoor bathroom duty.

red Dog and white cat

Photo courtesy of DepositPhotos.com

Pets stay warm by burning fuel—the food they eat. They need more calories to generate increased body warmth, too, especially if they’re outside pets and can’t rely on your warm lap. You can feed adult dogs a puppy food which increases the calories—or feed a “performance” diet. Just remember to switch back to a maintenance diet in the spring or you risk adding pounds and can end up with a fat Fido.

magic-snow

Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

When the temperature drops overnight, people pull on sweaters. Dogs don’t have the benefit of pulling something out of the closet to wear. Magic-the-wooly-wonder would spend hours outside if he had his choice. Yes, that’s him in the picture during the last storm, but even cold-loving dogs can have too much of a good thing.

CARBON MONOXIDE, THE INVISIBLE POISON!

I hope y’all have taken safety steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning–yep, it affects pets, too. Last week, our alarm system gas detector went off–WOOOOP-WOOOOP-WOOOOOP! The pets hated that, and it scared the whey out of me, too. It turns out our detectors were outdated, there was no leak by the water heaters (whew!), and once they were replaced we felt safe again.

You can get detectors at local home products stores. But many years ago, my brother’s pet bird, Gumby, saved the family’s life when symptoms alerted them to the danger. When Gumby began falling off his perch, they knew birdy fainting spells were not normal and sought veterinary help. The diagnosis was carbon monoxide poisoning, traced to a malfunctioning heater that could have put the whole family to sleep—permanently.

WHAT IS CARBON MONOXIDE

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas. It’s a natural by-product of fuel combustion present in car exhaust and improperly vented furnaces, space heaters, water heaters, fireplaces, and tobacco smoke. It can quickly kill people as well as their pets. Children and pets have died in as little as 15 minutes inside running cars while parents shoveled snow outside the vehicle, unaware the tailpipe was blocked.

The gas causes the same symptoms in dogs and cats as in their owners. However, carbon monoxide is lighter than air, so pets that live at human knee level may not show symptoms as quickly as their owners. Birds are particularly susceptible and like Gumby, may be the first to show signs.

HOW CARBON MONOXIDE POISONS

Here’s what happens. Carbon monoxide is inhaled, absorbed from the lungs into the bloodstream. There it binds with hemoglobin, the oxygen-transporting component of blood. This blocks the hemoglobin from using or carrying oxygen at all, which affects all areas of the body including the brain. The gas creates a kind of chemical suffocation.

The most common symptom of human carbon monoxide poisoning (low doses) in otherwise healthy people is fatigue that clears up when you leave the house. In heart patients it can cause chest pains. Higher concentrations cause headache, confusion and disorientation, and flu-like symptoms with vomiting. Ultimately, the poison victim falls into a coma. When the victim is asleep during exposure to the poison, the dog, cat, bird or the person may never wake up.

We don’t know if poisoned pets suffer headaches because they can’t tell us about this early sign. But they do act confused, lethargic, and drunk in the same way as human victims. A distinctive sign common to both people and pets are bright cherry-red gums in the mouth.

HOW TO CURE CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING

The body can only get rid of the poison bound to the hemoglobin by breathing it out, or by replacing the poisoned hemoglobin with new. The liver and spleen replace hemoglobin about every ten to fifteen days. When only a small amount of the blood is affected, the victim recovers without treatment as long as no more poison is inhaled.

But high levels of blood saturation will kill the person or pet unless emergency treatment is given. Twenty-five percent saturation level is considered dangerous for people. Usually, though, both people and pets should be treated when the carbon monoxide saturation level is ten percent or higher. Smokers will be more susceptible because they already have an elevated level of carbon monoxide in their bloodstream. In other words, if one family member smokes, he or she may suffer symptoms sooner than other non-smoking family members.

Administering high concentrations of oxygen is the treatment of choice. That increases the amount of gas that is breathed out. Many hours of oxygen therapy may be required. In some cases, ventilation may be necessary.

PREVENTING CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING!

To protect yourself and your pets from carbon monoxide poisoning, get your heating units inspected every year before you start using them. Carbon monoxide detectors are also available to be installed as a warning system.

If you notice any change in your pet’s behavior or your own health that coincides with cold weather or the furnace coming on, don’t automatically assume it’s the flu. Consult with medical specialists for both your pets and for yourself.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

 

 

 

#Pets Authors Panel: We Did It, So Can You!

Did you miss the Google Hangout? Wanna learn about WRITING LIKE CATS AND DOGS? Here’s Yvonne DiVita, Doc Halligan, Lisa Erspamer and myself talking about publishing, how we wrote our books, and other writer-icity experiences! Enjoy!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!