Tips for preventing dog bites

How do you prevent a bite?

Across the nation there are some 800,000 dog bites reported each year. That’s an alarming number! Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to bites, even from the most innocent of dogs.

Just last year more than 237 dog bites required immediate medical attention in the emergency departments of Norton Children’s Hospital and Norton Children’s Medical Center – Brownsboro.

“Pets, especially dogs, are like family to so many of us,” said Erika Janes, R.N., child advocate with the Children’s Hospital Foundation Office of Child Advocacy of Norton Children’s Hospital. “But even those pets we hold near and dear can become agitated or aggressive when circumstances change or they are afraid.”

Prevent a bite:

  • Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog. Even if you feel your dog is the most mild-tempered pet, there is always the possibility that something could happen. Always keep the child with you or put the dog in a confined area or on a leash (yes, even in the house).
  • Pets need space. Pets are possessive of their items, especially food and toys. Having a secure, kid-free zone for your pet to relax, regroup and unwind will lower the chance of a bite happening. Teach children (and adults) to respect animals by providing your pet with this space and time alone.
  • Keep dogs on a leash when outdoors. You never know how a dog will react around strangers or other dogs, even a dog you know very well. Plus, other people may not want to be approached by your dog. This protects both your pet and people.
  • Teach your child to always ask a pet’s owner before petting or approaching an unknown pet. This is a good habit that could prevent injuries or negative experiences with animals.
  • Another good habit to teach is to never stick hands through a fence into a dog’s territory.
  • If you see a stray or wounded animal wondering your neighborhood, never approach it. The best thing to do is contact Metro Animal Services at (502) 361-1318.

Being a responsible pet owner:

  • Socializing your puppy at an early age is one the best things you can do. Let the puppy get comfortable around different people and situations. Dog parks, walking along the sidewalk and hearing different sounds early on will help your dog cope with situations as they age.
  • Always keep your pet current on the required vaccines. Check with your veterinarian and animal shelters for discount vaccines if needed.
  • Some dogs are nippers — it’s their way of playing. If your dog nips, consider putting a muzzle on him when you go for walks or in public places.

Thinking of getting a pet? Things to consider:

  • Never get a pet on impulse.
  • Consult with your veterinarian beforehand. Discuss your current or future living situation, including children and elderly in the home, work and travel schedules, and activity level. These are all very important factors when choosing a pet.
  • Pick a pet that matches your family. The veterinarian can help you determine what breeds work best with your family.

Even if you follow all of the recommended steps, sometimes dog bites are inevitable.

“If you are out and a dog approaches you, stand still,” Janes said. “Never lunge at the dog or attempt to pet him. Also avoid direct eye contact if possible.”

Should the dog continue to come toward you or jump, experts recommend you get on the ground and use your arms to protect your face.

If you are bitten, wash the wound immediately and seek medical attention. In extreme situations, call 911 for emergency medical services.

“All dog bites must be reported,” Janes said. “There is a process to report dog bites in each county, so seek out the information where you live. Most times the medical provider you see will start the process for you and report it to the county’s proper authorities.”

For more information in the Louisville Metro area on dog bite reporting and concerns, call the Environmental Division of Louisville Metro Health and Wellness at (502) 574-6640.


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