How to Prevent Dog Bites

How often have you heard someone say, “There was no warning, the dog just bit him!” ?

But the truth is, there were likely lots of warning signals that the humans failed to notice or “read.”  As adults who care about children and dogs it’s our job to pay attention to the signals dogs send out and to monitor the interactions between children and dogs.  As humans we can alter the way we interact with dogs and keep pets and humans safe.



According to the American Veterinary Medical Association more than four and a half million people in America are bitten by dogs each year. Nearly twenty percent of the dog bite victims require medical attention and nearly half of the ones receiving medical attention are children. Children experience the most severe injuries. Most dog bites occur when children are interacting with dogs they know in typical everyday activities. Senior citizens are the second most common victims of dog bites.

So what can we do to prevent dog bites?

First of all with your own dog, be responsible. Properly socialize your dog by exposing him to typical sounds, sights and smells in the home and community. Teach your dog basic commands including sit, stay, come, leave it and drop it. Step up your training with teaching your dog the “look at me” cue.  Assure that your dog has ample opportunities for exercise and play.  The old adage of “a tired dog is a happy dog is a good dog” is true. Keep your dog healthy with routine veterinary care and as good a diet as you can afford. When looking for a trainer hire one that uses positive reward based skills.  4Paws University offers guidelines on choosing a dog trainer.

Teach your dog to walk nicely on a loose leash.

loose leash

Use a regular leash, four to six feet in length.  Avoid retractable leashes.

If your dog does not do well interacting with others consider putting a yellow or “caution” bandanna on your dog.  If your dog does like to be petted, instruct those who ask permission how best to approach your dog.  For instance, approach your dog from the side, avoid staring into your dog’s eyes, and offer the back of their hand to your dog to sniff.  Tell others to avoid bending over your dog and patting her on the head.  Instead, suggest they scratch her under the chin.


Educate yourself and your children about how dogs react and about the types of interactions that stress them. Remember, any dog can and will bite if presented with the wrong cues.  Always ask permission before interacting with someone’s dog and teach your children to do so.

Learn dog body language.


For instance, dogs will look away, lick their lips,  yawn or adopt a stiff body posture when uncomfortable.  The next stage may well be growling or a warning “soft” bite.  Take heed when the dog first shows his discomfort and disengage.  

Modern Dog Magazine also offers easy to interpret illustrations of dog postures ranging from relaxed to aggressive.

Together we can all prevent dog bites!  Let’s put National Dog Bite Prevention Week to work for all of us!