The third week of May every year is National Dog Bite Prevention Week in America and is designed to raise awareness that nearly all dog bites can be prevented with proper steps and procedures.
Pet ownership is at an all time high in the United States right now, and that includes dogs. The American Pet Products Association estimates that 62 percent of all American households have a pet, including 78.2 million dogs. With that many dogs around, it is probably not surprising that a large number of people are bitten every year by even the nicest of dogs.
While many dog owners do not believe it or choose not to acknowledge it, the truth is that any dog can bite at any time, even if the dog has never been aggressive or bitten anyone in the past. The smallest, softest, cuddliest, and cutest dogs bite just like some of the larger and meaner dogs because biting is in their nature. However dogs can be raised and trained to be passive and to not bite in most situations. Proper socialization with humans and other dogs can drastically reduce or eliminate the dog’s desire to bite and can make it safer for anyone who will spend time around the dog.
Even if the dog is properly trained, it may still bite in some circumstances. Startling a dog, hurting or injuring it, even unintentionally, or threatening the dog may cause it to bite. This is particularly true if you are unfamiliar or unacquainted with the dog which makes a dog more likely to experience fear in your presence.
Every year, approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs and nearly one in five of those bitten require medical treatment. Children are more likely to be bitten by any other group and often sustain the most serious injuries. Second to children, the elderly sustain the largest number of dog bites that are also often serious.
If you plan to be around dogs or if you allow your children to be around dogs, it is a good idea to think safety first and make a plan for how to address each specific animal. If you are the owner of a dog, make sure you properly train the dog to obey and behave, even when the dog would like to act otherwise. Many communities offer free or low cost obedience classes or similar training programs that focus on dog socialization and proper training.
Also if you own a dog, you should take steps to protect those who come into contact with your dog. Depending on its personality, you may wish to introduce all new visitors to your dog on an individual basis or it may be best to isolate your dog in a separate room or area of the house while company is around. This should be considered with every visitor but because of the vulnerable nature of children and the elderly, it is especially important to make concessions when they are present.