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Top 5 Dog Bite Prevention Tips

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Dog Bite Awareness and Prevention

By Dr. Patrick Mahaney, VMD


Dog bites can have tragic consequences, including severe injury or death. According to the AVMA Dog Bite Prevention webpage:

  • 4.7 million people the U.S. are bitten by dogs on an annual basis
  • 800,000 Americans receive medical attention for dog bites each year
  • Children are most commonly bitten, as 400,000 receive medical attention every year (senior citizens are in second place)
  • Dog bites to children most commonly occur with familiar dogs engaging in everyday activities

When it comes down to it, dog bite awareness and prevention should be a daily practice undertaken by all pet owners. Avoiding the personal, emotional, and financial trauma associated with incidents where our canine companions’ teeth penetrate another animal or person’s skin is a much better wellness practice for all parties involved than managing the post-bite trauma.


Here are my top five dog bite prevention tips.

1. Proper Socialization and Training

Get your dog used to being around others of his kind by promoting consistent and positive socialization with other animals. If you are training a puppy or acclimating a new adult rescue pooch to your household and lifestyle, focus on training from a positive perspective as soon as you become the primary care provider.


Teaching the basic commands, “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and others can help strengthen the canine-human bond and increase the likelihood that your pooch will respond favorably to interactions with other people.


If you aren’t confident with your technique or if your message is coming across as less than authoritative, seek guidance from a trainer, veterinarian, or veterinary behavior specialist via the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists website.

2. Leash Restraint

Always keep your dog on a short leash in public spaces. Avoid using an extendable lead, which doesn’t allow for the same degree of control as a non-extending leash does, which keeps your dog’s movement to the limited area that you allow.

3. Know Your Friends and Be Wary of Potential Foes

Do not permit your dog to approach another dog with whom you are not familiar. Besides the concern for a bite, scratch, or other trauma, the owners of canine companions need to be aware that other diseases (ocular, oral, respiratory tract and other viruses, bacteria, etc.) can potentially transmit from nose to nose, mouth to mouth, or mouth to anus (i.e., fecal-oral transmission) contact.

4. Avoid Potentially Stressful and Harmful Situations

If your dog is socially-challenged, consider skipping the dog park altogether. Any place where dogs congregate is a location where canine stress levels are high and normal behaviors are cast aside for more primordial patterns of aggression, anxiety, and a seemingly reduced capacity to pay attention to an owner's commands.


A brief and seemingly safe interaction between two dogs can go quickly awry. What once appeared as a friendly meeting can escalate into a blood-shedding fight at a moment’s notice.

5. Consider the Costs of Bite Wound Treatment

You may be thinking “the first four recommendations sound great, but my dog is perfect and would never get into a fight with another animal.” On more occasions than I can recall, I’ve heard my clients say such things while sitting in the examination room and seeking treatment for a bite wound their dog received or inflicted.


The average cost associated with treating a dog bite on an emergency basis can vary from hundreds to thousands of dollars and is typically relative to the amount of damage received (or inflicted). That is, the more serious the dog bite, the more expensive the veterinary bill.


The degree of damage incurred is never fully visible to the naked eye at the surface of the skin. Therefore, it is often necessary to sedate or anesthetize an animal, open up the bite wound, assess and repair the damage underneath the skin's surface, then surgically close the site with a drain (a rubber penrose drain which provides an exit for bodily fluids that collect as a result of the crushing injury associated with a bite-related trauma).

Always Be On Guard

Always take preventive measures to ensure that your pooch will not be the instigator or the recipient of a dog bite.


Learn more:

Any Dog Can Bite
The Yellow Dog Project





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  • Retractable Leashes
    05/20/2014 02:03pm

    I use both types of leash. You should not be telling people not to use a retractable leash. You make it sound like they have to stay at the longest length. People MUST be aware of the surrounding when using a retractable and know when to have their dog close to them. It's only common sense. When I take LuLu (my Boxer) walking I let her go as far as she likes until I see a reason to bring her back in or if we are working on obedience or going into a store (where permitted) in which case I use a normal leash. However, I will say I do NOT recommend a retractable that uses a thumb break! I recommend you get one with a trigger. I use the ASPEN Walkabout (the largest size). This is NOT the walkabout by Petmate but by ASPEN. They can be hard to find. But well worth the effort. Remember, it's RETRACTABLE and you need to protect you dog from others and bring them back close to you anytime you approach others.

  • leash at a vet
    06/02/2014 01:18am

    I am so thankful you acknowledge using a retractable leash can increase the risk of bites. I had my baby at the vet, on a harness and leash that is about 4 feet long. I ALWAYS hold enough of her leash to protect her and other dogs. She is only 12 pounds but she STILL has the ability to bite. A lady was in the vet and using about a 20 foot retractable leash. She was allowing her dog to go and "check out' ALL of the other dogs. Hers was about 12 weeks old and almost got bit by 3 dogs. She still allowed hers to go greet other dogs. I asked her NOT to allow her dog near mine, as my balance is not good. My dog knows this and gets VERY upset if a dog gets close enough to be in my walkway. I TOLD the lady this. She ignored and said, "My dog won't hurt you" and allowed hers to walk right up to mine while I was standing with my cane. I told her mine would growl at hers for getting too close to my legs. She did it anyway and acted HORRIFIED that my dog growled at hers and scared hers. I told her I had warned her, even explained why, yet she did it anyway. She yelled at me. I just told her everything she was doing was WRONG. Allowing her dog to check out other dogs she knew nothing about and that sick dogs do not generally feel well and that she should use a different leash. Yet, I was the bad parent.

  • Rule number 6
    07/08/2015 04:52am

    6. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER leave any dog alone with a child. No matter how docile you think your dog is, it is still an animal. Even the most docile, child-friendly yellow lab will bite if pushed hard enough. Every dog is one meal away from being a wild and fierce beast.