Frankly, sometimes it can become a lesson sorely learned.
We mention it here because the final few days of National Dog Bite Prevention Month are upon us. It ends Saturday. And last week, May 18-24, we observed National Dog Bite Prevention Week in unison with the American Veterinary Medical Association, as well as a slew of Cleveland and Bradley County veterinarians who understand the unique relationship between dogs and the owners they love.
Another who often sees the painful results of unexpected clashes between dogs and people is Michael Hoops, M.D., Cleveland’s only full-time, board-certified plastic surgeon. Hoops is not alone. It is likely many Cleveland and Bradley County physicians have treated injuries suffered by men, women and children from dog bites.
We mention Hoops by name because over the years he has served as a leading advocate during National Dog Bite Prevention Week, as well as the entire month. In his practice, Hoops surely has seen the unfortunate side of conflict between people and their dogs that too often leads to personal injury.
Such attacks can often be avoided by practicing common-sense measures — whether they involve a family pet or a stray.
According to information provided by AVMA, and distributed to members of this community by Hoops, “Did you know that children are the most common victims of dog bites? Many dog bites that affect children happen during everyday activities and with familiar dogs.”
Such a fact points to the importance of the common sense practices mentioned earlier. It also attests to the importance of adults serving as proper role models for their children on how to treat, and to play with, the family pet.
As provided by AVMA and Hoops, and most likely other organizations and medical professionals who share similar concerns, the following are labeled “10 Things We Can Teach Our Children to Prevent Dog Bites.”
1. Avoid dogs you don’t know. If you see an unknown dog wandering loose and unsupervised, avoid the dog.
2. Ask before petting! When the owners are with their dog, always ask permission to pet their pup. Even if it’s a dog you know, asking first can help prevent sudden movements that may startle the dog.
3. When confronted, don’t panic. If a dog confronts you, walk confidently and quietly away. If a dog goes after you, stay calm and stand still, keeping hands low and clasped in front of you. It’s important to take a defensive position so the dog won’t think you are trying to harm him.
4. Don’t make it worse. Avoid escalating the situation by yelling, running, hitting or making sudden movements toward the dog. All of these actions will make the dog feel threatened and can make the dog more aggressive.
5. Let sleeping dogs lie. When a dog is sleeping or eating, leave the dog alone.
6. Never tease dogs. Don’t take their toys, food or treats, and never pretend to hit or kick them. This could create distrust in the dog and make him or her more aggressive.
7. Playtime has a beginning and end. A dog has to want to play, but when the dog leaves that’s your cue that playtime is over. The dog will come back for more play if he feels like it.
8. Never pull a dog’s ears or tail. Pain makes a dog feel like he is in danger and he could respond by biting.
9. Dogs aren’t toys. Never climb on or try to ride dogs. Not only could this scare or anger the dog, it could also injure the dog if he cannot support the weight or tries to get away.
10. Dog crates are safe spaces. Don’t bother a dog when he is in his crate. Dogs need a comfortable, safe place where the child never goes. Remember, dogs need alone time too!
None of the suggestions above is complicated. All practice common sense and each can be taught by adults to children. It is based on courtesy, awareness and mutual love.
As we said, the title “Man’s Best Friend” has been lovingly earned by dogs over time. But even best friends can sometimes squabble. The key is understanding how to avoid such conflicts.