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Canine Bite Prevention

Canine Bite Facts

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as many as 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs annually with 60% of these victims being children. CDC also estimates that half of all children 12 and younger have been bitten. The good news is a large number of these dog bites are preventable. Responsible pet ownership and safe behavior around dogs can effectively curb this problem.

Owner's Responsibility Bite Prevention

Most victims are bitten by dogs owned by their family or friends. There are steps dog owners can take to reduce the likelihood of their dogs biting people. The following are safety guidelines for responsible dog ownership:

  • Socialize your dog at an early age so it feels at ease around people and other animals.
  • Don't put your dog in situations where it may feel threatened or teased.
  • Obey leash laws. Never let your dog roam free. Have your dog vaccinated against RABIES.
  • Never encourage your dog to be aggressive or attack.
  • Train your dog to obey basic commands such as "stay, "no", "sit" and "come".
  • Neuter your dog.
  • Never leave a pet unattended with a small child.

Be aware of warning signs that indicate a tendency toward aggressiveness, like dominant behavior such as refusing to obey, growling, nipping, or unprovoked attacks on another animal. If these signs develop, contact a professional trainer as soon as possible because proper training may eliminate undesirable aggression. If you have any question about your pet's behavior, consult a veterinarian.

 How to Handle Dog Confrontation

  • Never run away, avoid eye contact, and remain calm.
  • Stand still with your feet together and your fists under the chin and elbows into the chest (BE LIKE A TREE). Let the dog sniff you, wait for the dog to leave, then slowly walk away.
  • If you are lying down when the dog approaches, or the dog knocks you down, then lay still, face down, legs together with fists covering the back of your neck and forearms over ears (ACT LIKE A LOG). Again, let the dog sniff, wait for the dog to leave, then get up and slowly walk away.

There are other defensive techniques recommended by experts but the above techniques are the easiest for children to learn. It is also important to teach your children how to behave around dogs.

Bite Prevention Tips

  • Always ask an owner's permission before petting their animal.
  • Don't take bones, balls, sticks or other toys or items the dog considers special directly away from the animal.
  • Never bother a dog that is sleeping, eating or caring for puppies.
  • Never enter a strange dog's yard or stick your hand through an enclosure like a fence or car window to pet the dog.
  • Leave all stray animals alone (report these animals to authorities)
  • Always leave all wild animals alone.

How to Handle Animal Bites

  • Teach children to tell an adult if they are bitten.
  • If bitten by a strange dog, note breed, color, size, and the direction the dog went.
  • Contact the local animal control unit so they can safely apprehend the dog (or any animal that has bitten).
  • Wash the bite wound with soap & water. Contact your local physician as soon as possible.

Part of the joy of pet ownership involves teaching good manners. Pet owners need to properly care for, train, and handle their dogs. Parents should teach all family members about basic bite prevention.

For More Information on Canine Bite Prevention

VHS Tape - Dog Bite Prevention: A Video for Kids (VT-729) can be obtained by contacting your local elementary school, county extension office, or by calling Agriculture Communications, Oklahoma State University (405) 744-3727. This video was made through a cooperative effort by the Kirkpatrick Foundation, Inc., Oklahoma Veterinary Medical Foundation and Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service.

A copy of "See A Veterinarian" (SAV) Injury Prevention educational program for fourth graders is available through the Oklahoma Veterinary Medical Association (405) 478-1002.

Sponsored by:

Oklahoma Veterinary 
Medical Foundation


Oklahoma Veterinary
Medical Association


Oklahoma State
Department of Health

The defensive techniques described in this brochure are designed to hopefully prevent or minimize injury from dog bites. Due to the fact that no one defensive technique can guarantee to prevent all dog bites or injuries and because of the unpredictability of this subject matter, the Oklahoma Veterinary Medical Foundation and the Oklahoma Veterinary Medical Association assume no responsibility for injury that may result from using the defensive techniques described in this brochure.

Source: "Be Like a Tree" & "Act Like a Log" -- J. Michael Cornwell, DVM, 3712 N. High St., Columbus, Ohio



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