The weather is getting warmer and more people are enjoying outdoor activities, especially children. When kids are outside more it probably isn’t surprising the frequency of dog bites also goes up. Children are the most frequent victims, especially boys aged 3-13 since they tend to be more aggressive with animals than girls.
There are a few precautions that parents should teach their children which would cut down on these incidents. Most dog bites are caused when a dog is purposely or accidentally provoked.
There are some basic rules of interaction between humans and people that, if followed, would pretty much eliminate the misunderstandings that lead to bites. First – never attempt to touch a dog or cat unless the animal is with its owner and that person gives you permission. Animals that are loose outdoors may be injured, fearful or doing their best to give you a warning. Resist temptation – leave them alone.
Teach your children how to approach an animal. Teach them to never attempt to hug an animal, or to put their face next to that of the animal. While this behavior is fine between humans, it is very threatening to other animals.
Never chase an animal or run away from it. Never attempt to remove a toy or food from an animal you do not know well. No child should be allowed to remove food or toys from any animal, ever.
Nor should they be allowed to pick up, carry, sit on, tease or harass any animal, especially one that has no escape route.
When you feel threatened by a dog or cat, avoid direct eye contact; keep your arms down by your side, very slowly walk backward away from the animal, keeping it within your sight.
Do not scream. Do your best to appear calm.
Teaching your children how to read the body language of an animal is another great way to help prevent getting bitten.
Relaxed and happy: ears will be at a normal position. The tail will be relaxed or upright (cats). Whiskers (more noticeable on cats) will stand straight out from the face, and cats may purr. Dogs may wag their tail, but at its normal position, and they may appear silly; jumping or running about.
Aggressive: The cat or dog’s pupils will appear narrowed; ears are held flat and rotated backward, the tail will swish, thump the ground (cats), or be held straight up (dogs). Hair on the animal’s back may be raised. Dogs may growl or bark; cats may hiss or screech. Both may stand stiff-legged, to increase their perceived size.
Annoyed: With cats, the tip of their tail may twitch, their whiskers may be pulled back against their head, and their ears will be flat against their head. Dogs that are annoyed may also do the tail twitch, but are more likely to hold the tail up and wag the tip – this is not indicative that the dog is playful – rather it is part of their warning set. It is important to note the differences between a dog that is happy and relaxed and one that is doing its best to issue a warning.
Frightened animals are the ones most likely to bite – in self-protection. Their eyes and their pupils will appear wide open. The hair on their neck and body may stand up, and ears will be pulled back against the head.
Learning how to read an animal is important for both children and adults. I want to thank Shadow for barking this to me.