Beware of dog bites

Published in General, For the Health of It Author: Mackensey Stang BLEND Program Specialist

This week is national dog bite prevention week. Every year, a number of patients are seen at the St. Cloud Hospital who have been bitten by a dog. In 2014, seven people were admitted with traumatic injuries due to dog bites that required extended care at the St. Cloud Hospital. The most common victims are young children, and with over 70 million dogs living in U.S. households, it is important that people are educated as to proper handling of pets, and how to act towards an animal that appears threatening.

  • Dogs bite as a reaction or because they are scared, startled, sick or threatened.
  • Dogs may nip and bite during play, but it is best to avoid playing in ways that may trigger a dog to nip.
  • Make sure your dog is socialized from puppyhood to make them more comfortable around strangers.
  • Avoid trying to pet a dog who is sleeping or eating.
  • Do not startle a dog who is playing with a toy.
  • Do not run from a dog that is growling or barking, as this may signal them to chase.

Aside from recognizing the warning signs of when to avoid a dog and how to behave around dogs, it is also very important that children are educated and aware of how they should behave around dogs. Some things to teach them include:

  • Avoid unknown dogs.
  • Always ask permission to pet a stranger’s dog.
  • Teach children to never tease dogs by taking their toys, food or treats.
  • When faced with an aggressive dog, teach children to be “like a tree” and stand quietly with their hands low and head down looking at their feet.
  • Never “play” with a dog by pretending to hit, kick or be aggressive.
  • Do not leave infants or young toddlers alone with a dog.
  • Teach young children the importance of being gentle and to recognize a dog’s likes and dislikes.
  • Teach children to never pull on a dog’s ears, tail or skin.
  • Ultimately, teach children that a dog cannot be forced to play. If they are trying to sleep, eat or walk away from play, teach children that it is best to leave the animal alone.