dog bite prevention

Nine Ways to Prevent Dog Bites

dog bite prevention

Think your dog won’t bite? Think again. The Center for Disease Control estimates that about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year.  Half of those numbers belong to kids. Staggering, isn’t it? It’s summer time, more dogs are outside, and more people are interacting with dogs as it’s the social time of year.  This week is National Dog Bite Awareness Week, and the effort is backed by the U.S. Postal Service.  The American Humane Association reports that 66% of bites among children occur to the head and neck. Here are nine things you can do to prevent a dog bite…even if you don’t own a dog.

(1) Train Your Children: Over and over and over again

Always ask the dog’s guardian for permission before approaching and interacting with a dog. Never reach into a car window to touch a dog since some dogs will behave aggressively in small, enclosed spaces. Never approach a dog that is behind a fence or tied up, whether in a yard or outside a shop. The dog may feel trapped and react defensively. Think like the dog. You also don’t know that dog’s life and circumstances. Teach kids how to behave around dogs. Teach them not to approach, touch or play with any dog who’s sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy or bone, or caring for puppies. Animals are more likely to bite if they’re startled, frightened or caring for young.
Just this weekend, while walking my dog past a neighborhood park, two little girls came screaming up to my dog, hands flailing, one yelling “puppy puppy.” They were no more than 5 years of age. I have a small dog who also has his Canine Good Citizen papers, but I take no chances. I picked my dog up and nicely told the girls to slow down. Their mom showed about about three minutes later, angry that the kids had taken off. I understand it is hard to watch your kids at all times, but I must do this for my dog. I am not anti-kid; I am pro-dog and pro safety so that there are no accidents.
I explained to the mom what her kids did and showed the two little girls the proper way to approach a dog. The mom did not seem happy but my role is to educate and help children avoid harm.
cute dog

Prevent your dog from biting by NEVER EVER EVER HITTING him or her. You teach a dog that harm is to be accepted from you. Period. This mentality is old school, outdated, ineffective, and wrong. Socialize your puppy so aggression does not form. Puppies go through a period of development, typically between 7-16 weeks of age, where they tend to be highly social and out-going. If they experience all sorts of people (different ages, races, genders, etc) along with being around other animals, they are less likely to be startled to bite at other times in their life. Seek the help of an animal trainer or puppy kindergarten class.

If your dog is already an adult or if you’ve adopted a mature dog, it’s still crucial to socialize him throughout his life. In addition to walking the dog and taking him places with you, continue with his obedience training so he learns good manners and knows how to behave when he’s around people. Please read more about Never Hitting Your Dog here.

Dog bite laws vary by state so be aware.Visit  ANIMAL LAW INFO

(3) Know A Dog’s Body Language:

dog bites

(4) If You See a Loose Dog in Public

Over the past five years, I’ve rescued 12 dogs found roaming the streets. How I haven’t been bitten (well at least yet) is in following the rules I was taught. If you encounter a loose dog on the street, call Animal Control or whomever is the authority in your area. If the dog is not super friendly to you, be cautious in your approach. Speak to the dog in a friendly manner. If the dog comes up to you, hold your hand in the shape of a fist and extend it for the dog to sniff. Then stroke him on the neck, under the chin. Avoid reaching over his head or looming over him. If the dog does not come up to you, follow the dog at a comfortable pace. There have been times I’ve coaxed lost dogs into the foyer of my house and then shut the door. At least I was able to lure them and not have to worry about being bitten.

FACT: Did you know that kids are the No. 1 victims of dog bites. Surprisingly, the AVMA says most dog bites happen in the course of everyday activities with familiar dogs. Seniors are the second most common dog bite victims.

dog bite prevention
Courtesy AVMA

(5) Know Why Dogs Bite

This might be the single most important piece of information you can remember from this article: There are a variety of reasons dogs bite, and sometimes they are not the most obvious reasons. Dogs bite when they are afraid, feel threatened, get excited, are at play, have been trained to be aggressive, are being protective with food or treats, or are in pain or annoyed.

(6) Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

It’s true: Sleeping dogs are best left alone. When a dog is startled, he may bite out of disorientation, not even realizing who startled him. So don’t do it. If your dog is sleeping, gently call his name. If he is elderly and his hearing might be compromised, have a vet check him out.

dogs sleep

(7) Take Advice from the Experts

Laurie C. Williams CPDT-KA is a trainer and behavior consultant as well as the owner of Pup ‘N Iron Canine Fitness & Learning Center in Fredericksburg, Virginia. She has been training dogs for years and has a plethora of experience in recognizing if a dog will bite. She also trains her clients to prevent their own dogs from biting. She shares these tips to prevent dog bites:

dog bite prevention tips

(8) Mail Carrier Behavior

Think about the mailman: He or she crosses a threshold: Carrier comes onto said property, dog barks to let mail carrier he or she needs to back off. Mail carrier leaves. In the dog’s eye, he did his job. If a letter carrier delivers mail or packages to your front door, ensure your dog is  another room and close that door before opening the front door. Dogs have been known to burst through screen doors or plate-glass windows to get at people who come onto their property.

If you not home when the mail is delivered, be sure the dog does not have access to a screened in window nor a glass window. By law, if a carrier feels threatened by a vicious dog or if a dog is running loose, the owner may be asked to pick up the mail at the post office until the carrier is assured the pet has been restrained. If the dog is roaming the neighborhood, the pet owner’s neighbors may be asked to pick up their mail at the post office as well.


(9) Canine Good Citizen Training

Even if you are not into titles, ribbons, and awards for your dog, a good way to enhance the relationship you have with your dog as well as teach basic good behavior is by taking the Canine Good Citizen training. Read more about how to obtain the CGC title, or at the very least, train your dog with the CGC tenets here.

As a final note, to date I have never been bitten by a dog, but I have had two bites from children occur in my life.


Though National Dog Bite Prevention Week happens in May, dog bites are commonplace year round.

Have you ever had a dog bite happen to you or someone you know? Tell me about it in the comments


  1. Those are all awesome ideas. My dog has a tendency to bite when he doesn;t get his way.

  2. This is such a great post, Carol! Many kids come bounding over to us and just start petting our Husky, without asking and squealing all the way. Thankfully, she’s a trained therapy dog and great w/ kids. It’s wonderful when a child quietly comes over and asks to pet. It’s really important for kids not to pet near the face & head, they always seem to go for the facial area and often the very young ones get too close to her eyes. I often have to correct them. I’ll say “she likes to be pet here” while I stroke her back or side of her neck. Sharing this.

    1. You are such a good dog mom and good to know that you are showing kids the rights and wrongs, Cathy.

  3. I have almost gotten bit and attacked by dogs several times since I am a runner and there seems to be dogs off leash and/or roaming in places they aren’t suppose to be a lot more than you’d expect. I have been lucky though- I have been able to either make enough noise that either the owner or someone else comes to help. One time a dog almost bit my son while we were riding bikes- the owner came outside and said the dog was harmless. Well, apparently the dog wasn’t a fan of people riding bikes- and honestly, I strongly believe that it leash laws were taken more seriously, it would prevent many dog bites and attacks. I guess this is a tricky subject for me, as our dog was attacked recently and almost didn’t make it- again, it was from an off leash dog that came onto our property :/

    1. That is scary – I know there are irresponsible pet parents out there who give us good ones a bad name. That is scary that your dog was attacked – I am glad he is okay. Where are these off leash dogs coming from?

  4. Just wanted to add these are great tips though- I am constantly talking to my kids about this because they love all animals and dogs, and sometimes with my youngest she can be very intimidating (coming at an animal too fast, loud, etc)

    1. Thank you for mentioning this. It’s kind of hard to control a dog and someone’s child when they approach to pet the dog. I love kids and I feel bad if I have to block a child if they approach too fast or are too loud, but Haley can get a little excited and I would never want her to accidentally hurt a child. Great tip! 🙂

  5. These are all great tips. We have had big dogs since my kids were babies but we constantly remind our kids how to treat dogs and when they need to be left alone.

  6. I wouldn’t exactly use the words “train” your children, but teaching them proper care of animals is a smart thing to do to avoid being bitten.

  7. Not Petting a stray dog in public is common sense. I would also like to add not to tease Dogs.. I have an outdoor dog that is usually secured on a leash and i find that little boys especially like to tease dogs. This makes the dog aggravated and is tempted to bite

    1. You hit the nail on the head – so many dogs get teased and thanks for pointing that out, Lorane.

  8. My daughter was bit on the face when she as one. She’s ok now but it was really scary and I think a lot about it with my kids and my dog.

  9. This is such an important message! My son had to learn safe dog behavior while walking with me to school! Great job!

  10. These are great tips! It’s everyone’s responsibility to be a responsible parent and a responsible pet owner. Children and dogs can live in harmony if everyone is careful about training and being responsible!

    1. So true – if we all respect boundaries and know the signs if a dog is distressed, harm can often be avoided.

  11. I think it’s nice of you to share these tips. My husband is as mailman and has to consider such things daily.

  12. Great, great, great post ! Mum Claire tries to raise awareness for her pupils and teach them how to behave with animals of any kind. The Swiss Animal Protection SAP has elaborated a program for schools (on demand) : the group PAM VAUD SVPA, created in 2002, is active in all the canton of Vaud. It proposes its animations in the first grade of primary school or in the mixed classes 1st – 2nd primary school of the canton of Vaud. The group PAM intervenes with success approximately 150 times a year school, which represents not less than one intervention a day of school …
    To assure a quality service and act in complete safety for the children, 4 people and 2 dogs are present simultaneously in the classes. The team in class thus consists of a presenter, two owners of dog with their furry friend and an intervenant who disguises as “dog-clown”. This “dog-clown” allows to demonstrate certain movements and certain reactions specific to dogs, without worrying the children. The children are then allowed to approach and pet the dogs (if they want) as they learned. The prevention show takes place during school hours over two periods. At the end of the show, educational material is given to the teacher and to the pupils. In French :

  13. These are all great tips! We teach our kids to never walk up to a dog outside even if on a leash with it’s owner. You never know.

  14. That woman from the park may not have been pleased with your explanation of proper dog safety, but when her children learn and do not get bitten from it, she will be grateful. Good thing your dog is small enough to picked up! Great tips; thank you for sharing.

  15. Good article! I always tell people that there are some aggressive dog owners who train their dogs to be means, especially if they have pitbulls. I never understood that but moral of the story for the most part is to teach kid not all dogs are friendly.

  16. My 1 year old Cavalier has always had a bad temper, but recently, he has started biting me. He draws blood and attacks like a viper – quick, deadly, forceful attacks that not only leave me bloody, but with black and blue marks. He has resource guarding issues, but this biting me thing is fairly new. The most recent was this morning. He had some condensed snow stuck to one of his feet, and I tried to help melt it with my hand warmth. He would have none of that, and he got both of my hands. He can be such a lovey when he wants, but I need to find a way to get this behavior stopped.

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