I am editing and reprinting this during National Dog Bite Prevention Week 2016. Here are some tips for dog owners to improve safety:
- There is NO 100% safe or non-biting breed or crossbred. Do not fall for this. Nor are there bomb-proof dogs. Any dog has the potential to bite. The work you do between choosing the best match for your life, the training (and type of training) done and work with all humans who will interact with your dog is vital. Read here about why the dog tried to eat the child and here for bomb-proof dogs – well the myth of.
- Choose a good match for your lifestyle. A dog whose physical and behavioral needs you cannot or will not meet is more likely to develop frustrations. I cannot make a Border Collie behave like a Basset Hound. Click here for a piece on choosing the right source of a dog for you. Here is a piece on should you own the type of dog you are looking at.
- Confused and frustrated dogs behave in ways we do not like. They are not bad, just in need of different care. Engage your dog in productive and enjoyable activities that he likes. Bored dogs get into mischief. Read here for does your dog really like what you want him to like.
- Do not let people encourage the grabbing of fingers, toes, clothing, etc in play. This teaches dogs undesired play behaviors. Visit here for what may or may not be cute.
- Enroll in a positive training program. Training should build trust, not fear. Science has shown harsh methods are not needed for any breed or cross and can cause fears. To find a good trainer please visit http://www.petprofessionalguild.com.
- Socializing begins at BIRTH. Good breeders and rescues with young puppies will begin the socializing foundation. Between 8 – 12 weeks, your puppy must visit 20 new places and have positive interactions with 5 people each trip. Repeat between 12 – 16 weeks. If you adopt and older animal, a good trainer can help you create a socializing plan for your dog’s specific needs. Poorly socialized dogs often develop fears and aggressions. Click here for a piece on socializing.
- Aggressions and fears are manifestations of stress. Do not punish stress, you will only increase it. A good trainer can teach you desensitization and counter conditioning as opposed to saturation and suppression.
- Learn how dogs communicate. For instance growling is not bad and lunging may be a sign of stress.
- TV shows are no replacement for hiring a good professional.
- Behavioral concerns may have a medical cause. Call a vet as well as a trainer.
- No matter how good the trainer is, if you do not do your work, things will not improve.
- Dogs have likes and dislikes: respect them. For example, if your dog does not like people doing “kissy face” tell people not to do it!
- Properly confine your dog. The best and safest is a barrier fence too high to be jumped or reached over.
- Do not leave your dog out when no one is home or awake. The dog will have no one to teach him how to adapt to and ignore stressors.
- Make sure delivery people, postal workers, utility workers are safe from your dog when they are on your property.
And lastly: Make certain children learn good behavior around dogs. It is amazing how fast a child’s behavior, even in play, can lead to a bite. Even if you have no pets, your child’s friends or relatives may have pets.
Please visit www.SafeKidsSafeDogs.com for more information on dog safety for people of all ages, runners and cyclists, various processions, etc. Go to the “printables” page for lots of free things!
Karen Peak is owner/operator of West Wind Dog Training in Prince William County, founder of The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project, author, wife, mother and the manager of a multi-dog, multi-species household.