During National Dog Bite Prevention Week (April 11-17), a coalition of veterinarians, animal behavior experts, and insurance agents urge people to take steps to prevent dog bites from rising as the weather warms up the lockdown wears off and life returns to normal.
To provide more tips to pet owners, members of the National Dog Bite Prevention Week Coalition, which includes the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), State Farm, Insurance Information Institute (Triple I), American Humane, and Victoria Stilwell Positively, are going positive it’s hosting a Facebook Live event on Monday, April 12th at 1 p.m. Eastern.
Hosted by certified animal behavior consultant Steve Dale, the event will discuss training tips for preventing bites, safely socializing your dog after a year of isolation, and spotting the warning signs a dog might bite. In addition, the coalition will publish the latest data on dog-related claims for damages.
According to State Farm, the month with the highest number of dog injury claims last year was March when people were first locked out at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. They reported a 21.6% increase in dog bites compared to the previous March, likely due to dogs dealing with owner stress, routine disruptions, and more people around the house throughout the day. Experts fear that another disruption – this time due to the easing of restrictions on outside activities – could cause bites to rise again.
The Insurance Information Institute reported that in 2020 insurance companies paid $ 853.7 million for 16,991 dog bite and injury claims. While the number of dog-related injury claims declined 4.6% year over year, the amount paid for these claims rose 7.1% – a record high. The average claim payment was $ 50,245 in 2020, up 12.3% from $ 44,760 in 2019.
“Last year at that time, many people – and pets – were in the early stages of lockdown mode, and the stress and disruption of that change can be seen when we look at the dog bite data,” said Dr. Douglas Kratt, President of AVMA. “This year, as we begin to get out of these locks and isolation, our concern is to make sure our dogs – many of which were adopted last year – are prepared for safe interactions outside the home.”
“Since the anxiety that isolation creates can lead to negative behaviors in our pets, helping dogs prepare for changes in our schedules will help minimize their anxiety and ease the transition when we go to the office and around Activities outside of the home, “said Dr. Lesa Staubus, American Humane Rescue Veterinarian.
To help our pets make this transition, the National Dog Bite Prevention Coalition recommends the following tips:
• Make sure your pet is healthy. Not all illnesses and injuries are obvious, and dogs are more likely to bite when sick or in pain. If you haven’t been to the vet in a long time, make an appointment for an exam to discuss your dog’s physical and behavioral health.
• Take it slow. If your dog has only interacted with your family in the past year, don’t rush into crowded areas or dog parks. Try to slowly and briefly expose your dogs to new situations, ensure stress-free interactions, and praise and reward them for good behavior.
• Find out about positive training techniques and take time to interact with your dog.
• Go outside for leash training and allow your dog to socialize more.
• Gradually start making play dates with other dogs and people, carefully increasing the time and freedom together. This will help your dog get used to being with other canine companions again.
• Be responsible for approaching other people’s pets. Before approaching a dog, ask permission from the owner and look for signs that the dog may want to interact with you. Sometimes dogs want to be left alone, and we have to recognize and respect that.
It is also important to keep in mind that even well-trained and well-behaved dogs can bite if placed in the wrong situation. Addressing and avoiding these situations is key to reducing dog bites, rather than focusing on unrelated factors like a dog’s breed or appearance.
“Just like humans, dogs are individuals and each dog has a unique personality,” said Heather Paul, State Farm public affairs specialist. “That’s one reason State Farm doesn’t ask what breed of dog a person owns. While their breed or type can determine what they look like, a dog’s response to a situation is not guaranteed by the breed or type of dog. Therefore, it is important to realize that while most dogs won’t bite, any dog can bite and, as responsible pet owners, it is our duty to ensure that we protect both our pets and people. ”
“When people talk about dog bite prevention, the focus is automatically on dog training,” said Victoria Stilwell, prominent dog trainer, and behavioral expert. “While it is important that we teach dogs skills and teach them basic manners, the focus must actually be on building emotional health and well-being in order for them to thrive in our human domestic world.”
“While dog bites are a serious public health problem, the good news is that most dog bites are preventable,” said AVMA President Dr. Kratt. “By taking steps to train and properly socialize our dogs, and teaching ourselves and our loved ones about dog bite prevention, we can help reduce bites and keep dogs in loving homes where they belong.”
For more tips on preventing dog bites, visit AVMA.org/DogBitePrevention.
SOURCE American Veterinary Medical Association