As the summer heat soars, so do reports of dog bites. According to several veterinary and insurance sources, there’s an estimated population of 70 million dogs living in U.S. households and each year more than 4.5 million people – most of them children – are bitten by dogs.
If you routinely enjoy outside activity, then there’s a high probability you’ll encounter a dog that’s off its leash.
If you find yourself face-to-face with such a situation, use stern commands such as “stop,” “no,” and “back” to discourage the animal from approaching. If these don’t work, experts suggest:
- A walking stick may work to keep the dog at bay
- A dog whistle or a regular whistle will irritate a dog, causing it to run the other way.
- Dog deterrent spray. The effective range is up to10 feet when sprayed directly at the eyes, nose, and mouth of the attacking dog
- A stun baton that works on dogs may frighten them away before you have to use it. The dog will see the baton and hear the crackling electric charge, frightening it
- Spray bottle of water
It’s also recommended to avoid making eye contact with the dog and don’t show your teeth, because the dog may perceive it as a challenge and aggression. Obviously, always be aware of your surroundings and carry your phone.
Interestingly, dog bites were responsible for one-third of all homeowner liability insurance claims recently in the U.S., with insurers across the country paying out over $483 million in dog bite claims, reports an industry group. Along with children, seniors and postal carriers rank as the most frequent victims of dog bites. As a matter of fact, most dog bites affecting kids occur while interacting with familiar dogs, and 66% of those bites occur to the head and neck.
Any dog can be dangerous, and any dog can bite. Education and awareness are key. Dogs just don’t snap—there’s usually something that causes them to bite. A new software application, Blue Dog, is designed to teach children to think twice about how to treat and approach pets so they know when to play and when to stay away.
Always keep in mind some dogs aren’t ready to meet new people, so don’t assume that a dog out for a walk wants to be petted. However, if you can’t resist that adorable passing pooch, ask the dog’s owner before you approach. Keep your hand flat with your fingers together. A flat hand will keep you safe and show the dog that you aren’t a threat. Extend your hand but don’t touch the dog until it’s ready. Wait for the dog to come to you.
For your dog’s health—and in case of an accidental bite—your dog should be licensed and vaccinated. In order for your dog to be licensed you need to provide verification of rabies vaccination—something you get from the veterinarian, along with a tag, at the time of the vaccination. If you need to find a veterinarian in your area, be sure his or her license is in good status by searching on the Veterinary Medical Board’s website www.vmb.ca.gov.