Expert Discussion on Dog Bite Prevention Week on April 11


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I am once again honored to be a part of supporting Dog Bite Prevention Week, from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Here’s the press release:

For National Dog Bite Prevention Week (April 7-13), experts provide tips to prevent likelihood of bites

Expert panel to address dog bite prevention tips, answer pet owner questions via a free Facebook Live on Thursday, April 11, Noon Central

SCHAUMBURG, Illinois (April 4, 2024)—According to the latest data from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), 45% of U.S. households include a dog or dogs, for a total of 88 million canine companions in the United States. While the vast majority of these dogs will coexist peacefully with us, dog bites remain a serious public health risk, with more than 4.5 million people bitten each year in the United States.

During National Dog Bite Prevention Week (April 7-13), a coalition of veterinarians, animal behavior experts and insurance representatives are urging people to understand the risks dog bites pose to people and other pets, and to take steps to prevent bites from happening.

“Dogs are not just pets; they are beloved members of our households, providing joy, companionship, and comfort in our lives,” said Dr. Rena Carlson, president of the AVMA. “While the reality is that any dog can bite, most such incidents are preventable. As we mark National Dog Bite Prevention Week, let’s commit to increasing our understanding of the issue and taking proactive steps towards prevention. Together, we can nurture the bonds we share with our dogs and ensure the safety of our families and communities.”

Join the discussion on Facebook Live

To assist in these efforts, members of the National Dog Bite Prevention Week Coalition—which includes the AVMA, State Farm®, Insurance Information Institute (Triple I), and Victoria Stilwell Positively—will be hosting a Facebook Live event on Thursday, April 11, at Noon Central.

The event, moderated by certified animal behavior consultant and radio host Steve Dale, will discuss training tips to help prevent bites, how to safely socialize your dog after a period of isolation, and how to recognize the warning signs that a dog may bite. In addition, the coalition will be releasing the latest dog-related injury claims data. The panelists will also be answering questions submitted by the public during the event.

Dog bites and children

When it comes to dog bites, cases of bites to children are of particular concern. In fact, more than 50% of all dog-related injuries are to children, and for those under four years of age, those bites are often to vulnerable head and neck regions, which is why it is so important to never leave children unsupervised with dogs, even if they’re family pets.

To help protect young children from dog bites, the National Dog Bite Prevention Week Coalition is teaming up with the Center for Canine Behavior Studies to promote their new Be BiteSmartSM educational initiative. This initiative has launched its initial animated videos lesson—Paws to Prevent—for children ages 3 to 5, and parents. Coloring sheets that reinforce each lesson can also be downloaded. All videos and materials are free to anyone with Internet access. To view the Be BiteSmartSM video and download coloring materials, visit www.bebitesmart.org.

“Each year thousands of young children are bitten by a family dog, many of which were preventable,” said Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a veterinary behaviorist and cofounder of the Center for Canine Behavior Studies.  “Our educational videos focus on understanding canine body language that precipitates a reactionary bite. Collectively, we can reduce these occurrences benefiting both children, dogs, and families.”

Tips to prevent dog bites

Dogs can bite for many reasons, including improper care or a lack of socialization. All dogs, even well-trained, gentle dogs, are capable of biting when provoked, especially when eating, sleeping or caring for puppies. Therefore, it’s vitally important to keep both children and dogs safe by preventing dog bites wherever possible. The National Dog Bite Prevention Week Coalition provides the following tips:

  • Make sure your pet is healthy. Not all illnesses and injuries are obvious, and dogs are more likely to bite if they are sick or in pain. If you haven’t been to the veterinarian in a while, schedule an appointment for a checkup to discuss your dog’s physical and behavioral health.
  • Prioritize proper socialization: Socialization involves gently introducing your dog to a range of settings, people, and other animals, and ensuring these experiences are positive. Whether it’s quietly observing the bustle of a park, meeting new people in a controlled manner, or getting used to the sights and sounds of your neighborhood, each positive experience builds confidence. Remember, socialization is a lifelong journey, not just a puppy phase.
  • Take it slow. If your dog has been mainly interacting with your family since you brought them home, don’t rush out into crowded areas or dog parks. Try to expose your dogs to new situations slowly and for short periods of time, arrange for low-stress interactions, and look for behaviors that indicate your dog is comfortable and happy to remain in the situation.
  • Understand your dog’s needs and educate yourself in positive training techniques. Recognize your dog’s body language and advocate for them in all situations. This will give your dog much needed skills and help you navigate any challenges you might encounter.
  • Be responsible about approaching other people’s pets. Ask permission from the owner before approaching a dog, and look for signs that the dog wants to interact with you. Sometimes dogs want to be left alone, and we need to recognize and respect that.
  • Make sure that you are walking your dog on a leash and recognize changes in your dog’s body language indicating they may not be comfortable.
  • Always monitor your dog’s activity, even when they are in the backyard at your own house, because they can be startled by something, get out of the yard and possibly injure someone or be injured themselves.

“Part of my job as a dog trainer and behavior expert is to empower people with knowledge about the dogs with whom they share their lives,” said Victoria Stilwell, celebrity dog trainer and behavior expert. “And it’s this knowledge that not only enriches the relationship between dogs and people, but helps reduce the likelihood of bites from occurring.”

Financial costs

In addition to the potential for physical or emotional harm, dog bites can be financially costly. Janet Ruiz, director of strategic communications at the Insurance Information Institute, reported that in 2023, the number of dog bite and related injury claims was 19,062, an increase of more than 8% from 2022 and a 110% increase over the past decade, with the total cost of claims at $1.12 billion. On a positive note, the average cost per claim decreased from $64,555 in 2022 to $58,545 in 2023. California, Florida and Texas had the most claims. “Education and training for owners and pets is key to keep everyone safe and healthy,” said Ruiz.

“As the largest property insurer in the country, State Farm is committed to educating people about pet owner responsibility and how to safely interact with dogs,” said Heather Paul, media relations specialist at State Farm. “It is important to recognize that any dog, including ones that are in the home, can bite or cause injury. Every dog has a unique personality and while breed or type may dictate how they look, how a dog reacts isn’t guaranteed by those qualities.”

“While dog bites are a serious public health issue, the good news is that most dog bites are preventable,” said AVMA President Dr. Carlson. “By taking steps to train and properly socialize our dogs, and educate ourselves and loved ones on dog bite prevention, we can help reduce bites and keep dogs in loving homes, where they belong.”

For more information on preventing dog bites and National Dog Bite Prevention Week, visit AVMA.org/DogBitePrevention.

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About the AVMA

Serving more than 105,000 member veterinarians, the AVMA is the nation’s leading representative of the veterinary profession, dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of animals, humans, and the environment. Founded in 1863 and with members in every U.S. state and territory and more than 60 countries, the AVMA is one of the largest veterinary medical organizations in the world.

About Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I)

Founded in 1960, the Triple-I, an affiliate of The Institutes, provides objective, fact-based information about insurance. Triple-I is the trusted voice of risk and insurance; providing unique, data-driven insights to educate, elevate and connect consumers, industry professionals, public policymakers, and media.

About State Farm

For over 100 years, the mission of State Farm has been to help people manage the risks of everyday life, recover from the unexpected and realize their dreams. State Farm and its affiliates are the largest providers of auto and home insurance in the United States. Its more than 19,400 agents and 67,000 employees serve over 91 million policies and accounts – including auto, fire, lifehealth, commercial policies and financial services accounts. Commercial auto insurance, along with coverage for rentersbusiness ownersboats and motorcycles, is also available. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company is the parent of the State Farm family of companies. State Farm is ranked No. 44 on the 2023 Fortune 500 list of largest companies. For more information, please visit http://www.statefarm.com.

About Victoria Stilwell

Victoria Stilwell is a world-renowned dog trainer and behavior expert, best known as the star of the international hit TV series It’s Me or the Dog (Animal Planet, US).  Having filmed over 150 episodes since 2005, Stilwell reaches a worldwide audience with her philosophy of positive, humane dog training methods. She also served as a judge for Greatest American Dog (CBS) and as the on-camera behavior specialist for Dogs Might Fly (Sky One) and the One Show (BBC1). She recently created, produced and narrated the popular nature series, Dogs With Extraordinary Jobs (Smithsonian Channel) and is currently starring in the hit TV series The Dog Academy (Channel 4, UK).

Stilwell is the founder and President of the Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training and Behavior – the world’s premier dog trainer educational institution, creating new generations of positive dog trainers and enhancing “The Future of Dog Training.” She is the author of four best-selling books: It’s Me or the Dog – How to have the Perfect Pet, Train Your Dog Positively, The Secret Language of Dogs and The Ultimate Guide to Raising a Puppy. Her website www.positively.com is a popular destination for dog lovers across the globe.