Don’t git bit! National Dog Bite Prevention Week is here.

This is National Dog Bite Prevention week and in it’s honor I am linking to a poster on my Facebook page called “Better Never Bitten,” created by Ilana Reisner, DVM, PhD, of Reisner Veterinary Behavior Services. It gives some tips for keeping everyone in the family safe, including the dog!

I am also reprinting my blog from March 4, 2014 about dog bites and 2 important ways to prevent being bitten:


I have a couple of easy things you can do to prevent canine inflicted injuries, but I also think it is important to know just how likely you are to be injured by man’s best friend. According to Janis Bradley, author of Dogs Bite, But Balloons and Slippers are More Dangerous*,IMG_1610

Your chances of being killed by a dog or dogs are roughly one in 18 million. That means you are twice as likely to win a super lotto jackpot on a single ticket than to be killed by a dog. That means you are five times as likely to be killed by a bolt of lightening-not just struck by one, mind you – killed.

She further notes that “dog bite fatalities fall far behind other very rare causes of death in children, including five-gallon buckets, party balloons and swings.” Children are much more likely to be killed by a family member or caregiver than a dog. In fact, the average number of deaths per year caused by family and friends: 826, caused by dogs: 10. If you include the entire population, death by choking is 5555/year, bicycles: 774, falls: 14,440, dogs: 16.

But what about incidents with dogs that don’t result in death, but require medical treatment? Interestingly, Ms. Bradley notes:

In the United Kingdom, where injuries are broken down by very specific causes, bedroom slippers and sneakers each cause significantly more medically treated injuries than dogs. This is also true for “other” shoes, which do not include slippers, sneakers, sandals, high heels, platforms, clogs, or boots. And you can’t avoid the danger by going barefoot, which is almost twice as dangerous as any kind of footwear.”

Here are the numbers to support this statement: (Average number of injuries per year): Bare feet: 423,825; Sneakers: 214,646; Shoes: 198,670, Slippers: 64,974; Dogs: 62,743 (note that it doesn’t stipulate if this is dog bites, or just injuries involving a dog, such as tripping over one and spraining an ankle). With these sorts of statistics you’d think there would be a push for breed specific slipper bans…

Moreover, if you look at the raw numbers of dogs, estimated to be 60-64 million in this country (one for every 4-5 people) and figure that they come into contact with several people every day, that results in tens of billions of hours of dog-human contact every year. Realistically, anything with that level of exposure is going to have some risks or hazards attached. Comparatively, Ms Bradley states that,

roughly 180 million people of all ages in the US participate in some kind of sport or physical activity at least occasionally. The actual exposure time is probably much lower than that with dogs, but at least it’s a large scale one. So about double the number of people who live with dogs participate in sports. Yet emergency departments treat over 13 times as many sports-related injuries as dog bites. (emphasis mine.)

Still, dog bites do happen and children (especially those between the ages of 5 -9) are more likely than adults to be bitten, and boys are more likely to be bitten than girls. Children are also more likely to be bitten by a resident or family dog than a stranger dog. So what are parents to do to reduce the risk of a dog bite to one of their children? If I could give only two pieces of advice to anyone wishing to avoid being bitten here they are, in order of importance:

#1: Do not approach or pet a dog with a closed mouth.

I would give this guy some space and time to decide if he wants to meet me.

I would give this guy some space and time to decide if he wants to meet me.

#2: Wait and let the dog approach you.


Hudson, our highly social golden is not interested in visiting right now.

Hudson, our highly social golden is not interested in visiting right now.

A happy dog ready to say hi!

A happy dog ready to say hi!

I choose these two rules because they are easy to understand and remember for people of all ages, especially rule number one. So, what is the big deal about a closed mouth? First of all, this is something that is quick and easy to note about any dog and it is a bright line that children readily understand. Secondly, while this isn’t the only way a dog communicates its feelings about a situation, a closed mouth can serve as a good general indicator of a dog’s approachability. Dogs, like humans, often carry tension in their mouths. And, like people, when stressed or uncertain, dogs may keep their mouths closed. Just as people who smile are more approachable, dogs with open mouths tend to be more relaxed as well. Think of it this way: if he isn’t smiling at you, he probably doesn’t want to meet you.

Buckley meets a new friend.

Buckley meets a new friend.

As for rule number 2, if a dog wants to meet you, he will come up to you. Be patient and allow a dog to make the decision that you are irresistible! Sometimes dogs have bad days. Perhaps their hips hurt, or they are tired from running, or they are sleepy, or they have already met enough people that day and do not wish to meet any more. If you allow the dog to make the decision about who he meets, you are much more likely to have a good encounter. Think of it like this: how many new people do you want to meet who charge into your personal space and thunk you on the head, even when you feel great? Now imagine you are hot, tired, sore, or uncertain about how that stranger smells or looks. How tolerant would you be to his intrusive  behavior?

Dogs are remarkably tolerant and gracious about the rudeness displayed to them by humans, increase your chances for a great interaction by giving the dog a choice.

Marley ran up to say hi!

Marley ran up to say hi!

Find Dogs Bite, But Balloons and Slippers are More Dangerous at :

General Informational or Doggie Demographics3 comments

  1. Your blog is very useful and beautiful. I think it helps me relaxed after work. Thanks for sharing because I love dogs so much. Hope you will share more

    • Julie Smith says:

      Hi Olivia,

      Thank-you for your very kind thoughts. I am so pleased that you enjoy my blog, I try to post a new one every 1-2 weeks, so keep coming back. And, if you have a question about something canine, please ask as it might inspire another blog.

  2. I hope that other readers will also experience how I feel after reading your article. I feel very grateful that I read this. It is very helpful and very informative and I really learned a lot from it.

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