Dog Bite Prevention: Training Your Dog Not to Bite
We all love our dogs. But are dogs dangerous? Much of the answer lies in the hands of the dog owner and the training a dog or puppy receives.
People rely on dogs for friendship and companionship. Dogs long for attention and a sense of belonging. But what happens when dogs attack?
Media coverage of such – albeit infrequent – attacks reminds us that dogs can cause harm.
The answer is not to blame the animal. Instead, those who care for dogs need to look in the mirror. Dogs haven’t changed. However, some dog owners need to, according to the experts.
“The public needs to understand that although dogs are domesticated animals they all still possess innate instincts that pose a degree of threat to people – regardless of breed. The environment dogs are exposed to will ultimately determine the threat they pose to others,” says Ontario-based veterinarian Dr. Matthew Croskery of Oakpark Pet Hospital.
Judy Emmert, owner of Dealing with Dogs, an Ontario-based dog training school, stresses the importance of teaching ‘bite inhibition’ to puppies and the earlier the better – optimally, before 18 weeks of age.
“All dogs are going to bite if given the opportunity,” comments Emmert. “As owners we all need to manage our dog’s life so that it is never in a situation where it can cause harm.”
While some communities want to ban specific breeds, Emmert and Croskery aren’t sure that that is necessarily the best way to deal with the issue of aggressive dogs.
Emmert’s classes aren’t only “puppy education” but people training, too. Emmert is adamant that children also need to understand how to interact with dogs – not only their own pets, but those of others.
Emmert stresses there are some important basics to keep in mind in terms of avoiding situations that can lead to dog bites.
Early Dog Education Tips – for both the Dog and Family.
All family members need to know how to control the pet.
As a parent, work to control the behaviour of your children around dogs. Teach them to respect the animals – and their space. Children who receive bites may have done something as simple as having reached for the dog’s collar. To a dog, this can be perceived as an aggressive act.
Teach children what to do in the presence of a strange dog. Always ask the dog’s owner if it is all right to approach the dog. If it is okay, give the dog the opportunity to smell the child’s hand if it does appear to be friendly. Keep a close eye and ear. If the dog isn’t interested, don’t push it. A wagging tail doesn’t necessarily mean a dog is friendly.
Early Socialization for the Dog
Dogs need to be comfortable with other dogs and humans in different situations. This will help the dog learn to adapt to the unknown and therefore not be fearful. Emmert says that dogs often respond to fearful situations with aggressive behaviour.
“Adopting a dog is a lifetime commitment and training is essential. It (taking on the care of a dog) shouldn’t be an impulsive act and people need to take into account the suitability of the dog or breed for certain situations,” emphasizes Croskery.
“Use positive reinforcement when training— punishment doesn’t work,” says Emmert who has been training dogs and owners since the early 1980s. “Dogs are not human beings. As much as we think we know our animals we can’t be sure 100% of the time what they will do.”
When all is said and done, the dog owner has to be held responsible for the companion animal. Owning a dog needs to be perceived as a privilege, not a right. There is an inherent responsibility that goes along with caring for an animal. The penalty (for dog bites) to the dog owner needs to be severe enough to force people to pay attention to their dogs and also to avoid circumstances that may potentially be disastrous.