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Understanding and preventing dog bites

As a dog owner, you most likely think of your pet as a member of the family. However, it is important for you and other Californians to understand that although your dog may be your best friend, you cannot trust dogs to react to people with friendliness at all times. In fact, a dog you know may end up biting you or a loved one and causing serious injuries.

Dogs bite approximately 4.7 million people in America each year, according to statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even more frightening, about half of dog bite victims are children. When you think about dog attacks, the image of a vicious stray in the neighborhood or aggressive dog at the park might come to mind. However, it is important to know that most people who are bitten knew the dog in question. A friend's dog could snap at your child, or your own dog might react unpredictably to something it was afraid of or annoyed by.

Knowing this, what precautions can you take that may protect you and your loved ones from dog bites, while still allowing you to enjoy the family pet or a friend's dog? The following tips may reduce your risks of being bitten by a familiar dog:

  • Never let young children play with a dog unsupervised.
  • Do not disturb a dog while it eats, sleeps or cares for puppies.
  • Do not encourage aggressive play with your dog.
  • If your dog shows signs of being aggressive or protective of food and toys, seek professional behavioral training.

In addition to teaching your children the above tips, instruct them on how to react to unfamiliar dogs. Never go up to a dog you do not know without allowing the dog to approach you first. Kneel down to the dog's level and allow it to sniff your hand. If an unknown dog is approaching, avoid making eye contact and remain calm. Do not scream or run, as this may encourage it to give chase.

Knowing how to interact with dogs can go a long way toward preventing you and your loved ones from suffering a bite injury.

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