CHICAGO (WBBM) – Dogs bite an estimated 4.7 million people every year in the United States and many of the victims are young children. Expert say public awareness and education are key to preventing biting incidents and the full court press is on this week during National Dog Bite Prevention Week.
“Nearly a million people seek medical attention each year for dog bites,” says Dr. Julia Georgesen from Blum Animal Hospital in Chicago. Georgesen is also resident pet expert on Newsradio 780’s Eye on Pets program.
She says pet owners and non-pet owners both share responsibility when it comes to preventing dog bites.
“Socialize your puppy at a young age to be comfortable in new situations with new animals and with new people. Train your dog to understand basic commands. That helps it develop trust with you the owner. Provide plenty of exercise and stimulation to keep your dog mentally stimulated and healthy.”
Dogs should be spayed or neutered, kept on a leash at all times and Georgesen says make sure your pet has all of its shots including its rabies vaccination. Also avoid wrestling with your dog or playing tug-of-war with it because those activities can cause aggression.
For non-pet owners, Georgesen says always respect a dog’s space and observe its body language before you approach.
“If they’re licking you and if they’re coming up to you and not shying away, those are things to look for. If they’ve got their fur up and their tale between their legs, they are scared or frightened. If you are approached by a dog and they want to sniff you, stand still and speak calmly and firmly. The worst thing to do is to turn and run away.”
Georgesen says never approach a strange dog. “Ask permission before you try to pet a dog or before you allow your children to approach a dog. You don’t want to run past a dog or disturb a dog when it’s sleeping or eating.”
When you encounter a dog remember to WAIT – W-A-I-T. Wait to see if the dog is with its owner and wait to see if it’s friendly. Ask the owner for permission to pet the dog. Invite the dog to sniff you. Touch the dog gently when you pet it.
And remember, any dog can bite regardless of its size or breed.