Tips to Prevent Dog Bites
All dogs can bite regardless of size or breed. The key to preventing dog bites starts with responsible ownership.
- The American Kennel Club offers advice about adding a dog to your household. Selecting the Right Purebred Dog offers suggestions to consider when picking a breed. The AKC's Breeder Referral Program can help you locate breeders in your area. Also consult with a responsible dog breeder or veterinarian for additional advice.
- Leash your dog. When you allow your dog to run in the yard, keep it safe in a fenced enclosure. While electronic fences may keep your dog in your yard, they do not keep people and animals from approaching it.
- Protect your dog against rabies by vaccinating as required by law. It is wise to keep a copy of your rabies certificate available at all times.
Give your dog a good foundation on which to build.
- Socialize your dog, beginning when you bring it home. Undersocialized dogs may feel uneasy when approached by strangers. These usually loving dogs may bite out of fear.
- Train your dog by teaching it at least the basic commands: "sit," "down," "stay," "heel," and "come." AKC's Canine Good Citizen® Program is a fun way to get started.
- Train your dog to drop its toys on command so that you do not have to reach into its mouth to retrieve the toy.
Do not set your dog up for failure.
- Be cautious when introducing your dog to new situations. Be ready to respond to any signs that your dog is starting to feel uncomfortable and remove it from the situation.
- Do not put your dog in a situation where it could be threatened or teased. You may want to confine your dog in these potential situations.
- Play non-aggressive games such as fetch. Games such as tug-of-war could encourage inappropriate behavior.
Preventing dog bites is more than just the responsibility of the dog's owner. It is also your responsibility to practice safe behavior when around unfamiliar dogs.
- Small children should never be left unsupervised with a pet.
- Children should be taught to always ask the owner for permission before they pet a dog.
- Respect a dog's space. Keep your hands away from a dog's fence. A dog considers its yard personal property and may growl or bite to protect it.
- "Let sleeping dogs lie" is a good rule to follow. That goes for a dog that is eating or drinking as well.
- Be cautious around a mother dog with her puppies. She will be naturally protective.
A dog should be kept on a leash when it is out in a public place. However, you may see a dog wandering loose without an owner. If a loose dog approaches you:
- Do not run away from the dog and do not yell or make loud noises.
- Stand very still like a tree. Cross your arms over your chest, as if you are giving yourself a great, big hug. (This shape forms the trunk of your tree.) Look away from the dog. Dogs sometimes think direct eye contact is a challenge for power and control. You do not want to challenge the dog. You want the dog to go away.
- Toss an object away from you and away from the dog. This should attract its attention toward the object - and away from you. The dog should move toward the thrown object to sniff and investigate it. This will give you a chance to slowly turn and walk away.
Dogs cannot hang a "Do Not Disturb" sign around their neck every time they want to be left alone. Instead, they communicate through their body language. A dog's body language communicates how the dog feels and whether it is in a friendly mood or should be left alone.
- A relaxed dog usually holds its head up. Its tail may be down and may wag back and forth. Its ears are neither back nor forward. Its hair will lie smooth along its back. Its mouth and lips are relaxed, which can appear like the dog is "smiling." You may also be able to see its tongue.
- On the other hand, sometimes a dog is not feeling friendly or relaxed. Look for a certain type of body language to tell you to keep your distance. A threatening dog may have a wrinkled nose that draws back to reveal its teeth. The hair along the back of its neck may be raised, forming a long column along the spine. Its ears may lie back, and its body may appear tense and cocked. The dog may also growl or snarl. Always try to avoid any dog displaying any of these signs or acting in a threatening manner.
The AKC's Public Education Department publishes a teaching kit, Safety Around Dogs, Your Safety Begins with You!, for children in grades K-6.
The kit is offered to teachers, librarians, youth group leaders, animal control officers, animal shelters, veterinarians and community and civic leaders.
For more information regarding responsible dog ownership, please visit the Public Education section of our website.