This week marks the annual national effort to bring awareness to dog bite prevention. Every day dog bites occur, and the dogs,their owners and the person injured are forever effected. There are an estimated 70 million dogs in the U.S. The majority of bites involve children. Many of these bites are serious requiring medical attention, stitches, plastic surgery. Some are even fatal.
It is not possible to love dogs and ignore this reality.
We have handled 1000’s of dogs over the years in training, grooming & social interaction with clients animals. I’d like to say there were no bites but that would be untrue, although they are rare and of the minor variety. All of us who handle dogs daily, have been bitten, it’s part of the territory. The focus this week is how to prevent dog bites, and the emotional trauma that accompanies that bite. As a precocious 5 year old, I was bitten by a relatives beagle, “George”. I was already dog crazy and even though I was warned that he’d had shots that day and to stay away, I pursued “George”. This happened over 40 years ago and it is as clear now as when it happened. I was petting him most likely right on the sore injection site ,we locked eyes and he bit me in the hand. It was not a bad bite, but my ego was bruised, “George” got sent outside, and I was scolded for ignoring the warning. Thankfully a little ice soothed my sore hand but I felt awful for “George” since I was responsible for him being scolded. Plus, I was heartbroken that he didn’t warm up to me like I’d hoped. Fast forward to 2015 and with 25 years of dog handling under my belt, preempting dog bites is a constant. We don’t handle aggressive dogs, but any dog can nip or bite under the right conditions. On a given Saturday, we may have 20 dogs in and out of the store for grooming, training or just to visit. Education is the key. Reading body language, respecting space, and providing a secure, safe environment for our dogs is critical. On a daily basis I see and intervene in situations where a nip or bite could occur. Inexperienced owners being too casual, putting a new rescue in situations he’s not ready for, overestimating a dogs social skills, not reading body language are all common. The tales of dogs surrendered to the shelter or euthanized for biting are too numerous to mention, so many of those occurrences, avoidable. That being said, Those owners who knowingly allow a dog to bite/injure and don’t seek professional help,are doing a huge disservice to the dog and the general public. I have strong words and advice for those individual.
Every day children are bitten under similar circumstances as me all those year ago and it is up to the adults in the room to educate themselves and the youngsters. Our classes have always addressed these issues, and even if you don’t come to our classes, if you bring your dog to The Bark Market, you will get a ton of free advice. The Yellow Dog project is an ongoing global effort to help prevent dog bites. We post information and yellow ribbons throughout the store. For more info follow this link: YELLOW DOG