Pets

Dog bites, most common in summer, are often preventable

Dogs always give warning signals, but these signals are generally missed by both children and adults.
Dogs always give warning signals, but these signals are generally missed by both children and adults. MCT

Dogs love summer as much as people do, especially when they get to go outside and play, and they get lots of extra happy attention.

But those moments can go horribly wrong in an instant.

“In the summer, we see quite a few dog bites,” said Millcreek Township, Pa., animal control officer Tim Stevenson.

And when it happens, there’s usually plenty of blame to go around.

“It’s traumatic for both sides,” Stevenson said. “Sometimes even a good dog does bad things.”

Many dog-bite incidents can be prevented, according to Stevenson and certified canine trainer Lynn Yusz.

“Dogs always give warning signals, but these signals are generally missed by both children and adults,” Yusz said. “These signals might include behaviors such as yawning, licking, scratching, shaking or fidgeting.”

Those are signs that a dog is stressed from any number of situations.

“Dogs get agitated in hot weather, too, just like we do,” Stevenson said. “They get vicious over food, especially.”

Yusz said it’s important for parents to pay close attention to their children around dogs and teach them how to behave around them.

Watch children and dogs

“The single most important thing that parents of young children can do to prevent a dog bite is to supervise their children,” she said. “Dogs bite to protect an object or space, when they are frightened by an unpredictable circumstance. Children are very unpredictable from a dog’s point of view.”

The most important thing for owners to remember, Stevenson said, is when a dog is agitated for any reason, to change its scenery, get it away from people and other dogs as soon as possible, and always have control of the animal on a leash or in an enclosed space.

In public, owners should tell people who want to pet the dog how to do it properly, Yusz said.

“Never approach a dog,” she said. “Remain calm, and allow the dog to approach you. Never hug an unfamiliar dog, or raise a hand above their head to pet. Allow them to sniff your hand and pet under the chin where they can see what you are doing.”

Stevenson said all dogs have a different threshold for stress.

“Some dogs are people dogs, and some aren’t,” he said.

And, just like people, even the nicest dogs have a breaking point.

“Good people have good dogs, and they’re kind of victims, too, sometimes,” Stevenson said. “When a dog bite happens, it’s not a good experience for anyone.”

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