Guarding Against Dog Bites

Jennifer Clarke
By Jennifer Clarke June 15, 2014 11:01

Jennifer Clarke and friend

In 2013, Tuolumne County Animal Control investigated 176 dog bites – and some of those could have been avoided.

Any dog is capable of biting, but many bites can be prevented by paying attention to the animal’s situation, behavior and surroundings.

First, don’t startle a dog, whether it’s sleeping or awake. And be very careful when handling an injured dog, as even the most loving pet will bite when in pain. Avoid getting too close to or handling young puppies, as the mother will try to protect her babies from any perceived threat.

Some dogs fear strangers or people who sound or act differently than their owners. They may bark or growl, but most would really rather run than bite. So don’t force the issue with a dog that is obviously frightened. Give it room to escape and move away. Plenty of self-proclaimed “dog whisperers” who choose to intervene end up at the hospital.

Dogs can be possessive, so don’t try to take food or a toy away from one you don’t know. It is important to start training your own dogs at a young age to relinquish items on demand. Seek help from a professional if this is an ongoing problem.

If a dog starts growling or barking when you approach its owner, back off and ask the person to secure the dog in the yard or another room.

Dogs are predators and cannot always resist the instinct to chase. Unfortunately joggers and bicyclists sometimes find themselves the victims of this inappropriate prey drive.

Dogs are also territorial and will defend their perceived property. Since they cannot read parcel maps, dogs permitted to run at large may decide that the street in front of the house or part of the neighbor’s yard is their turf. This creates problems for folks walking by and for delivery or service employees trying to do their jobs. It can be especially dangerous when a dog walker tries to protect a leashed pet from attack.

So how do we guard against bites?

Pepper spray is legal and available at most sporting goods stores, but be aware that the spray can create a cloud that may affect anybody nearby. Umbrellas not only keep you dry, but can protect you from dogs. Opening one can scare a dog off, and they can be used for self defense.

If you must approach an unfamiliar home, make a lot of noise as you approach. Give dogs the opportunity to make their presence known so you can decide whether it is safe to enter. It is no fun to knock on a door, then look back to find a growling dog between you and your parked car. In such situations, keep calm and back slowly away. If attack seems imminent, try to “feed” the dog a clipboard or piece of clothing.

Many people are bitten due to dog-versus-dog aggression. Breaking up dog fights with bare hands usually results in one or more people being bitten. Instead, try spraying fighting dogs with a hose or inserting an inanimate object, such as a piece of wood, between them.

Some dog bites will occur no matter what, and all dogs that bite must be quarantined. Home quarantine may be permitted if the dog has a current rabies vaccination, available from veterinarians and at periodic low-cost clinics throughout the foothills.

Jennifer Clarke manages Tuolumne County Animal Control.

Copyright © 2014 Friends and Neighbors Magazine

 

 

Jennifer Clarke
By Jennifer Clarke June 15, 2014 11:01
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