It's a time of year we all look forward too, but beware, as springtime is a seasonal hotspot for dog bite injuries according to the NHS and with one in six hospital admissions involving children aged under 10 it is important to ensure our families are all aware of the best practice when around dogs.
The media often confronts us with images of large snarling dogs but it is important to understand that any dog; big or small can be unpredictable and should be treated with respectful handling at all times. Bites are more often than not caused by a dog known to the victim so take care with all dogs and not just ones we do not know.
First and foremost dogs are a territorial animal. Although our actions maybe passive, a dog will view an invasion of its territory as one of conflict and react accordingly as protection.
Here are my TOP 10 Tips to avoid a dog bite:
1) Do not invade dogs space when it is sleeping, eating playing with a toy or nursing its pups. Always allow a dog to approach and sniff you before giving affection.
2) Never put an outstretched hand over a dogs face or head as dog's view this is as a dominant gesture and may react in a defensive manner.
3) Running away from a dog and screaming in fright will encourage a dog's natural chase instinct. Remain still if scared and do not make eye contact. The dog will become bored and leave you alone if no reaction is given.
4) Encourage puppies to play with teething toys to avoid exploratory nips as they discover their environment. Avoid approaching sick or senior dogs with pain. Pain levels or loss of senses can increase their protective nature which may mean a usually passive dog can become forceful. Offer a kinder and slow moving touch to sick or elderly dogs.
5) Always supervise young children with dogs, no matter how well you believe you trust its demeanour. Younger children are naturally inquisitive and can inadvertently provoke a dog to defend itself.
6) Ensure you socialise your dog with as many different people from a young age to strengthen its understanding of interactions avoiding nervous reactions.
7) Do not play confrontational games with a dog i.e. tug of war or wrestling. Dogs are unable to differentiate between playing games and aggressive actions.
8) Avoid shouting, screaming and running around dogs. Over enthusiasm can sometimes result in a friendly nip.
9) Assess and understand a dog's body language. Avoid dogs whose hackles on back of neck are raised, dogs that are staring, dogs whose ears are earthier pinned forward or backwards and any dog showing its teeth.
In the event that you are bitten by a dog, most cases can be treated with simple first aid. Clean the wound under warm water and allow it to bleed. General painkillers will help with any pain or inflammation. Once your wound is cleaned, visit your doctor. Bites, no matter how minor have the potential to become infected. If a bite is more severe seek hospital treatment to cleanse and remove and damaged tissue.
Dogs make wonderful pets but we must never forget that they have been domesticated from wild animals and we must learn to treat them with the respect we expect them to show us.
Dave Hume - specialising in non harsh, affordable solutions for problem dog behaviour in Manchester. Dog Training