How to reduce the chance of getting bitten—for everyone

Nearly five million people in the US are bitten by dogs each year. Most of the victims are children, and most of them are bitten by family pets.  In observance of National Dog Bite Prevention Week, here are some tips on reducing the chance of getting bitten—for everyone. 

National Dog Bite Prevention Week is endorsed by the National Dog Bite Prevention Week Coalition, a group of organizations spearheaded by the AVMA and including American Humane, State Farm, and the Insurance Information Institute (III).

Of those nearly five million dog bite cases, surprisingly few result in insurance claims, but those that do  add up—the III reported that in 2020, insurance companies paid $853.7 million for 16,991 dog bite and injury claims.

And while the number of dog-related injury claims decreased 4.6% compared to the2019, the amount paid for these claims increased 7.1%—a record high. The average claim payment was $50,245 in 2020, up 12.3% from $44,760 in 2019.

According to State Farm’s claim information, there were more dog-related injury claims in March 2020 than in any other month last year, with a reported 21.6 percent increase in dog bites compared to March of the previous year. Much of that jump is attributed to a combination pandemic-related factors, including:

  • The spike in pet adoptions at the beginning of the pandemic
  • Increased child-dog exposure because of shelter-in-place regulations
  • Heightened stress for dogs as they picked up on amplified household stress
  • Decreased adult supervision around dogs and children as adults juggled increased responsibilities at home

To help reduce the number of dog bites, the National Dog Bite Prevention Coalition provides the following tips to pass along to clients:

  • Don't leave children unsupervised with any dogs.
  • Make sure their pet is healthy as dogs are more likely to bite if they are sick or in pain.
  • Expose their dogs to new situations slowly and for short periods of time.
  • Inform themselves on positive training techniques and dedicate time to interact with their dog.
  • Be responsible about approaching other people's pets.
  • Always walk their dog on a leash and be attentive to any changes in their body language indicating they’re uncomfortable.
  • Continuously monitor their dog’s activity because when startled by something, dogs have the potential to injure someone or get injured themselves.

Meanwhile, Fear Free offers the following dog bite prevention tips for pet professionals:

  1. Read body language. Pay attention to the dog’s body language for signs that she may be fearful, anxious, or ready to bite.
  2. Let the dog be last. For dogs who feel confined in the exam room, allow the dog and owner to be the last individuals to enter the examination room.
  3. Postpone greeting the patient. Do not rush to greet the patient; instead, give the dog some time to decide about interacting and respect the dog’s space.
  4. Approach sideways. Have the owner bring the dog to the center of the room and approach the dog from the side instead of the front.
  5. Feed tidbits. Use food liberally throughout the visit to create a positive experience for the dog.
  6. Protect the client. Educate the client about safely medicating the dog at home.
  7. Keep patients happy. Make every effort to ensure the dog’s visit to the clinic is as positive as possible; allow the pet to learn that visits include delicious food, consistent routine, and gentle handling.

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