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Paw prints: How to be proactive in preventing dog bites

Community Columnist

Last week is Dog Bite Prevention week, so I thought I’d dedicate this column to awareness of how serious the issue is, how to prevent dog bites, and what to do in the event of a dog bite.

It is important to recognize that any dog can bite if they feel scared or threatened, even the friendliest puppy.

In the United States, nearly 800,000 dog bites requiring medical treatments are reported annually, and there are likely thousands more that go unreported. Dog bite victims are most commonly young children followed by the elderly and home service providers such as postal workers.

In cases of dogs biting children, it is most often the family or friend’s dog, not necessarily a stranger dog.

Dog bites can cause significant trauma and have the potential to be fatal, so this is a serious problem which should not be taken lightly.

Luckily there are steps we can take to prevent bites from occurring.

There are certain breeds of dogs that have reputations as being more aggressive, but how a dog is trained and raised has more influence on behavior and the potential to bite.

So, the first step in preventing dog bites starts with being a responsible pet owner. When you decide to get a dog, it should not be an impulse decision.

Research what breed is best for your family and lifestyle. If you have young children, waiting until a child is older may be best as most dog bites happen to children younger than five.

Teach your dog basic obedience commands, reward positive behavior and avoid physical punishment. Provide daily exercise and mental stimulation.

Most importantly, take your dog to the veterinarian for yearly wellness exams and routine preventative care. How a dog feels can directly affect how it behaves.

What else can you do to keep your family safe? Educating children at an early age about dog safety should be as important as teaching a child about strangers.

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