North Carolina ranks 14th in the United States for dog bites, according to insurance provider State Farm.
In 2015, North Carolina had 56 dog bite claims which cost $990,571, according to State Farm. In 2016, those numbers jumped to 77 dog bite claims which cost more than $1.89 million.
National Dog Bite Prevention Week is April 9-15. In 2016, State Farm paid more than $121 million for 3,660 dog bite claims, up 15 percent from the year before. And over the past 10 years, State Farm has paid more than $1 billion for dog-related injury claims.
Children make up more than 50 percent of all dog bite victims, State Farm wrote in a news release.
The top 10 states for dog-related injury claims were: California (433), Illinois (323), Ohio (211), Pennsylvania (200), Texas (168), Michigan (167), New York (156), Indiana (137), Georgia (125) and Minnesota (122).
State Farm doesn’t exclude any homeowners or renters insurance coverage because of breed of dog.
“Under the right circumstances, any dog might bite, regardless of breed,” according to State Farm.
“Many people don’t think to add a personal liability umbrella policy (PLUP) to provide extra coverage in case their dog does bite someone,” said State Farm agent Carmen Contreras. “Homeowners think about fire or theft to their home but don’t think their dog would bite anyone so they may be financially vulnerable if it ever happens.”
The Humane Society of the United States says that dog aggression is complex and can be categorized in several way depending on cause:
▪ Fear-motivated aggression, or when a dog believes he or she is in danger of being harmed.
▪ Protective, territorial and possessive aggression, or when a dog is trying to defend a valuable resource such as food, their property or toys.
▪ Redirected aggression, or when a dog is provoked by a person or animal he or she is unable to attack or defend against and redirects that aggression onto someone else.
“The likelihood of a dog to show aggressive behavior in any particular situation varies markedly from dog to dog,” according to the Humane Society. “Some dogs tend to respond aggressively with very little stimulation. Others may be subjected to all kinds of threatening stimuli and events and yet never attempt to bite.”
The Humane Society does not recommend punishment for dog aggression.
“Punishment won't help and, in fact, will often make the problem worse,” according to the Humane Society. “If the aggression is motivated by fear, punishment will make your dog more fearful, and therefore more aggressive. Attempting to punish or dominate a dominantly aggressive dog may actually lead him to escalate his behavior to retain his dominant position. This is likely to result in a bite or a severe attack. Punishing territorial, possessive, or protective aggression is likely to elicit additional defensive aggression.”
State Farm works with celebrity dog trainer Victoria Stilwell of the TV series ‘It’s Me or the Dog’ and focuses on educating people about responsible dog ownership and understanding dog body language.
“Educating the general public about dog bite prevention is more vital than ever,” said Stilwell. “As a dog behavior expert, I support the need to raise awareness and stop these incidents from occurring.”
Stilwell recommended the following tips to avoid dog bites:
▪ Learn canine body language. Too often people misunderstand or miss signals that a dog is uncomfortable. For example, a dog that yawns might not necessarily be tired. Yawning can also be a sign of stress.
▪ Give dogs space. Dogs can feel threatened when strange people touch them, so take pressure off by giving them the choice to come into your space first to say hello.
▪ Be humane. Dogs that are raised and trained humanely are more confident and less likely to bite than dogs that are trained using punitive methods or equipment designed to intimidate and cause pain.
More tips from State Farm:
▪ Angry dogs sometimes wag their tails. People often assume that a dog with a wagging tail is a friendly dog, but this is far from the truth. Dogs wag their tails for numerous reasons, including when they’re feeling aggressive. A tail that is held high and moves stiffly is a sign that the dog is feeling dominant, aggressive, or angry.
▪ Dogs don’t like to be kissed and hugged. We humans like to touch and hug people and things when we express happiness. Dogs don’t. Some dogs are very tolerant and will allow hugging and kissing while some try to get away. A dog may tolerate or even enjoy a hug on his terms, but sometimes he will not be in the mood. Think about it, when hugging a person you wrap your arms around the other and hold them in place for a few seconds. That alone is bad news to a dog since they on average do not do well with restrain. They generally don’t like to be held in place. This alone is enough to generate feelings of anxiety as well as a sense of unease and insecurity in your dog.
▪ If a dog is chasing you, you shouldn’t try to run away. Never run from a dog! The dog may think you are playing a game and start chasing you if you begin to run away. Don't shout or wave your arms as this will either encourage or frighten the dog. Remain calm and still and talk to the dog using a soft voice. Loud, angry-sounding words and screaming only make the dog nervous and upset.
Abbie Bennett: 919-836-5768; @AbbieRBennett