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!

Weird Woof Wednesday: Knee-Jerk Reactions & Poopy-Puppies

”Puppies

We’ve had two blogs in a row filled to the brim with writer-icity, so it’s time for a bit of SQUEEEE! puppy-licious fun. There are a number of weird behaviors, though, that puzzle even savvy dog owners. One’s enough to make you question your dog’s good taste–literally.

Coprophagia–sounds all literary-like, right? But that’s just a fancy word for eating (ahem) poop.

Ew! You might want to put down your McMuffin while reading this.

Poop eating can be nature’s way for mom-dogs to keep the nest clean, and Junior-Dawg simply copy cats the behavior. It’s annoying, nasty, and great fun for juvenile delinquent pups. Even the Magical-Dawg indulged in his youth, played keep-away with the crap and one time actually carried some inside the house. Oh yeah, THAT went over well, and reinforced the cat’s opinion of him.

Most pups outgrow the behavior. If you have a canine connoisseur of pungent productions (say THAT fast five time!), these 10 tips to stop eating poop will help.  Just take a look at that face (below) and tell me you couldn’t forgive that keep-’em-laughing puppy! In fact, read on for some neato news.

July 15-17, Petfinder.com is joining with over 1,500 rescue groups and shelters across North American for what could be the largest adoption event in history–in honor of Petfinder.com 15th Birthday year! That sweet puppy above with the goof-ball grin is Booger-Boy  and he’s available–just click on thr picture for a link to details. Betcha once he’s adopted (and you could change the name!) he’d promise not to eat anything you don’t want him to eat…except maybe a favorite sock that reminds him of his beloved human . . .

A less annoying but still puzzling behavior involves doggy scratching behavior. Does your pooch kick when he’s scratched? Is it a certain place if you rub him the right way, or will his leg jitter and jump with any scratch? The Ask Amy video below has some answers–but what have I missed? Why do you think dogs “fiddle” when scratched?

And do your dogs (or pups) eat nasty stuff? How do you handled the problem? Please share!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions–and to stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Thoughty Thursday: Feeding The Muse

”Does

Due to the magic of WordPress, I get to write this EARLY and have it posted tomorrow morning while I’m flying to New York. Can you see my arms a-flappin’ (insert “twack-thwackity-thwack” sound effects)?

I don’t have a lot to say today other than–I’m excited, exhausted, anxious, and thrilled all rolled up in one. Excited because Thrillerfest is the absolutely BESTEST-FUNNEST-INSPIRING-EST conference I attend. Exhausted because I’ve managed to cram a week’s worth of work into two days so I wouldn’t be distracted with (ack) work while there. Anxious because flying ain’t near the adventure it used to be and crappiocca always–ALWAYS–happens (wonder if I”ll be profiled this time?).

And thrilled because I get to see my favorite authors, reconnect with friends and make new acquaintances.

For writers, nothing gives us a goose in the ass-terick like a writer’s conference. We get to schmooze and express our jealousy admiration for all those successful folks; steal all learn the secrets of their success; hang out with cool people in the bar during seminars  and find out–

They’re people, too. And they have some of the same angst-icity and writerly challenges that face the rest of us. Oh, and some of ’em worked for DAYS and WEEKS and sometimes MONTHS before they had an overnight success (I kid…more like years or decades in many cases).

So what’s the most inspiring part of being among people who really understand us–why we bang our heads on the virtual door of publication forever. It’s not that we’re born masochists. Okay, well, some folks are. And it’s not that we’re totally clueless about our lack of talent. Wait–maybe that fellow waa-a-aay over there might be a wee bit . . . never mind. For sure it’s not because we enjoy rejection.

Creative types do it because–it’s who we are, not just what we do. And gathering at a writer conference like Thrillerfest, or at a music festival or Harley Davidson convention, dog or cat show, quilt exhibition, or ComicCon or whatever floats your creative boat FUELS THE MUSE.

I’m already feeling all inspired-like.

What feeds your muse? How do you energize your creative side? When do you feel most in need of a pick-me-up, and where do you find the necessary go-get-’em juice to press on?

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? I’m nearly ready to record a bunch of new ones, so be sure to get your requests in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Woof Wednesday: Say WHAT?

Do you speak “dog?”

Many of us get by without truly understanding what all the woofs and wags mean. We make do for two main reasons:

  1. Dogs are so smart they learn to understand us.
  2. Dogs forgive human stupidity.

Still, there are many problems caused by miscommunications. Some of ’em can get you bit–or your dog labeled “dangerous” or worse–sentenced to death.

[caption id=”” align=”aligncenter” width=”500″ caption=”A raised paw means…what?” Sammy the Westie

”What's

Dogs really have done it to themselves. They’ve become so loveable, and so attentive and willing to please, that humans begin assuming they’re just tiny ‘people’ in fur coats. (Never mind that’s incredibly politically incorrect and offensive…) Hey, I’m guilty, too. Calling pets “fur-kids” makes it easy to slip over that invisible line and hold them to human standards instead of–well–letting ’em be dogs.

People are primates. We’re touchy-feely, we want to hug and touch, and don’t always understand why our dogs don’t always welcome such things. And when the dog throws us all kinds of conciliatory gestures–ears down, cutting eyes sideways, wagging and slinking with a goofy grin in that “aw shucks” expression–we assume they’re guilty or apologizing for something.

Because that’s what a HUMAN would do–act guilty. And NO, “wagging my tail” is not how I threw out my back. Harumph.

”Another

Anyway, the pet owner in this Ask Amy installment assumed the pawing dog was apologizing. Was that right?

What do all those tail wags mean–that he’s friendly right? Yes…and no. Tail talk has many meanings. So do woofs, whines, growls and howls. Even fluffed fur can speak volumes and oh-dear-heaven, don’t get me started on Pee-Mail! (or is that pee-male, LOL!). So what do you think “pawing” might mean? Here’s a hint–it’s part of the peace-keeper pooch repertoire!

What else does your dog do that makes him look guilty? I know lots of dog-savvy folks read this blog, so what am I missing? Please add more info in the comments and we’ll make this installment super-share-able!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? I’m nearly ready to record a bunch of new ones, so be sure to get your requests in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Woof Wednesday: Canine Cake, Bad Backs & Dig THIS!

”Royal

Cynthia over at The Interior Design Hound posts the most outrageous, fun, and interesting dog-matic information on her blog. She featured the Corgi Cake, created by Michelle Sugar Art, along with a kewl video of the dogs enjoying their snack–(does that smack of canine cannibalism?!), plus lots more Royal Canines through history.

At least this edible Corgi isn’t prone to back problems the way real long-bodied, short-legged dogs are. I’m sure the Royal Family wouldn’t have a problem funding cutting edge care should they suffer an injury. What would you do if your dog suddenly became paralyzed? Here’s a true story from Pet Care in the New Century. 

MODERN MIRACLES: JENNY TAKES A STAND

When Jenny the Dachshund stopped climbing the stairs, her owner, Connie Mallory of Redmon, Washington, knew something was wrong. “I put some ice on her back and she got better,” says Connie, “but it didn’t last.” Within a few days the 13-year-old dog couldn’t walk and had to drag her back legs. Her rear end was totally paralyzed.

Connie tearfully called her sister, who urged her to attend a lecture held that same day by a veterinary chiropractor from Seattle. He had a new therapy called VOM that was supposed to offer new hope to pets that suffered from back and other orthopedic problems. Connie was skeptical.

She didn’t want Jenny to suffer, and she was reluctant to put her through the trauma of surgery. Feeling she didn’t have much choice, she made an appointment to have Jenny put to sleep. But that Sunday, on the way to the vet’s office Connie stopped on an impulse to listen to what Dr. William Inman had to say. She arrived in time for the last half hour of the lecture.

Connie sat with the paralyzed Dachshund on her lap in the back of the room, petting Jenny and trying to stop her tears. Jenny wasn’t the only dog in the room—Dr. Inman was conducting demonstrations during the lecture—and before she knew it Connie had her dog being examined by the veterinarian.

Dr. Inman used the activator to examine and treat Jenny. The paralyzed little dog lay quietly on the table without moving throughout the treatment. Then the doctor stood her up on the table.  “She took three or four steps—and everyone in the room started crying!” says Connie. “She’s 16 years old now, and still walking and even running. Jenny moves a little sideways, but she keeps on ticking.”

Of course, when the lil’ guys are healthy they drive us nuts in other ways. Do your Dachshunds dig? What about your holy Terriers? What do you do about doggy digging maniacs? The latest Ask Amy offers some suggestions but I bet y’all have even more, please share!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions–and to stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!