Dog Bite Prevention Week, American Veterinary Medical Association


We are smack dab in the middle of Dog Bite Prevention Week, May 20 through 26.

While dog bite prevention is important, some maintain there are an epidemic of bites, a theory I do not subscribe to.

Here’s why:

There are more dogs in America today than ever before, the number of reported bites actually hasn’t risen as fast as the number of dogs (by most accounts).

We don’t really have great data on dog bites (though you’ll see various estimates),  4.7 million people are bitten according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Veterinary Medical Association. This is because – while organizations are far better at this – some don’t share data. And we know not all bites are reported, we just don’t know how many aren’t reported.

Sometimes people report a “bite,” and it counts as a report – though the dog only “mouthed” a person or in some cases not even that.

According to an American Veterinary Medical Association report on dog bites:

  • 4.7 million people in this country are bitten by dogs every year
  • children are by far the most common victims
  • 800,000 Americans receive medical attention for dog bites each year
  • children are far more likely to be severely injured; approximately 400,000 receive medical attention every year
  • most dog bites affecting young children occur during everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs
  • senior citizens are the second most common dog bite victims

There are a number of things that you can do to avoid dog bites, ranging from properly training and socializing your pet to educating your children on how, or if, they should approach a dog. Information is one of the best cures for this public health crisis.

What’s a dog owner to do?

  • Carefully select your pet. Puppies should not be obtained on impulse.
  • Make sure your pet is socialized as a young puppy so it feels at ease around people and other animals.
  • Don’t put your dog in a position where it feels threatened or teased.
  • Train your dog. The basic commands “sit,” “stay,” “no,” and “come” help dogs understand what is expected of them and can be incorporated into fun activities that build a bond of trust between pets and people.
  • Walk and execrcise your dog regularly to keep it healthy and provide mental stimulation.
  • Avoid highly excitable games like wrestling or tug-of-war.
  • Use a leash in public to ensure you are able to control your dog.
  • Keep your dog healthy. Have your dog vaccinated against rabies and preventable infectious diseases. Parasite control and other health care are important because how your dog feels affects how it behaves.
  • Neuter your pet.
  • If you have a fenced yard, make sure the gates are secure.

Dr. Bonnie Beaver, veterinary behaviorist and past president of the American Veterinary Medical Association talks about dog bites.

Victoria Stilwell from Animal Planet’s “It’s Me or the Dog” talks about dog bites.