Dog Bites

Dogs have shared their lives with humans for more than 12,000 years and that coexistence has contributed substantially to humans' quality of life. In the United States, there are more than 53 million dogs sharing the human-canine bond, more dogs per capita than in any other country in the world. Unfortunately, a few dogs do not live up to their image as mankind's best friend. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, an estimated 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year, with an estimated 800,000 requiring medical attention. Children account for approximately half of all dog bite victims with the elderly being the second most common group of victims.

Direct costs of dog bite injuries are high, including the cost of medical care, insurance costs, workmen’s compensation claims, lost wages, and sick-leave associated business costs, among others.

Almost half of all dog bites are provoked, regardless of whether the victim is a child or an adult. What constitutes provocation for a dog can be very different from what a human would consider provocation.

Basic safety tips to avoid dog bites:

  • Always supervise a young child around any dog, no matter how well known, friendly, or small that dog may be. A parent sleeping in the same room does not constitute supervision.
  • Never approach an unfamiliar dog.
  • Never run from a dog and scream.
  • Stay still when an unfamiliar dog comes up to you.
  • If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and lie still.
  • Do not stare a dog in the eyes because it may view that as threatening.
  • Do not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating or caring for puppies.
  • Do not pet a dog without letting it see and sniff you first.
  • Do not ride your bicycle or run past a dog.
  • Do not tease a dog, pull its ears or tail or squeeze it too hard.
  • Lavish extra attention on a dog when a new baby is brought home.

It's important for new dog owners to understand…

  • that canines are pack animals, and puppies should be trained to look to humans for leadership and to avoid competition with humans;
  • the need to socialize the puppy to many different types of people;
  • the importance of puppy obedience class;
  • that wrestling, tug-of-war, and "siccing" instills bad habits in a dog;
  • the importance of spaying or castrating the dog (studies show that neutered animals are less likely to be aggressive); and
  • the significance of teaching children how to properly behave around animals.

For additional information about dog bites and bite prevention, visit the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website.