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Dog Bites, a Shocking U.S. Epidemic (Especially Among Kids): How to Avoid, and What to Do

It is an epidemic affecting close to 2 percent of the population -- mostly children -- and resulting in 1,000 people in need of hospital emergency care every day, and between 15 and 20 deaths per year.

Had the title not given it away, many would have guessed anything but dog bites. But if you find it hard to believe that dog bites are a major cause for concern in the United States, consider the following facts:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that dogs bite more than 4.7 million people annually

  • One out of every six bites requires medical attention

  • Nearly 334,000 dog bite victims visit hospital emergency rooms each year -- that's 914 per day! -- according to the National Center for Health Statistics

  • Lawsuits filed by victims of dog bites against pet owners appear to be on the rise

Children are the most common
victims of dog bites. Teaching
your children, at a young age,
what to do if they meet an
aggressive dog can save
their lives.

  • The second most common cause of injury to children is getting bitten by a dog -- they represent more than half of all dog bite victims -- according to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)

    70 percent of dog bites occur on the owner's property. As such, dog bites account for close to one-quarter of all homeowner's insurance liability claims at a cost of $345.5 million a year

So just what are your chances of actually being bitten by a dog? The CDC says an American has a one in 50 chance of being bitten by a dog each year, and about 77 percent of the time the dog will belong to your family or a friend.

Therefore, learn how to prevent attacks, and what to do if you are attacked ... and please share these insights with children and email to friends, especially those with kids as they are the number one victim of dog bites.

Which Dogs are Most Likely to Bite?
It should be noted that any dog could be friendly or vicious, regardless of breed. Oftentimes a dog becomes aggressive simply because it was trained to be that way or was abused in the past. Similarly, a dog that is thought to be more aggressive can be trained to be trustworthy and loving.

So it is impossible to pinpoint a specific type of dog and know that it will bite. That said, though, there are some characteristics that you can keep in mind.

According to the CDC, the following breeds killed one or more individuals from 1979 to 1996:

  • Pit bulls
  • Rottweilers
  • German shepherds
  • Huskies
  • Alaskan malamutes
  • Doberman pinschers
  • Chows
  • Great Danes
  • St. Bernards
  • Akitas

Further, eight out of 10 times a dog that bites will be male, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

Never approach a dog that's confined behind
a fence, as he may feel cornered and try to
bite out of fear or defense of his territory.

Steps to Avoid Getting Bitten
The United States Humane Society suggests the following ways to significantly reduce your risk of getting bitten by a dog:

  • Don't approach a strange dog -- especially if it's behind a fence or in a car

  • Don't pet a dog (even your own) without letting it see you and sniff you first

  • Don't turn and run away from a dog, since a dog's natural instinct will be to chase after, and catch, you

  • Leave dogs alone while they're eating, sleeping, chewing on a toy or caring for puppies

  • Be cautious around strange dogs -- assume that they could see you as a threat or intruder

  • Don't allow children to play with dogs unsupervised, and never leave babies and toddlers alone with them, even if you think it's safe

If You Feel Threatened by a Dog
If a dog approaches that you think might attack, here's how to make yourself seem like less of a threat:

  • Don't scream or run

  • Stay completely still with your arms at your sides

  • Avoid eye contact with the dog

  • When the dog loses interest, slowly back away

  • In the event the dog does attack, see the tactics below

If a Dog Attacks You

  • The Number One Rule: NEVER RUN (you cannot outrun a dog, and their instinct will be to catch you)

  • If you are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball and put your hands over your ears

  • Lie face down, protect your face with your arms

  • Remain motionless and try not to scream or roll around

  • Stay standing if possible and turn your body sideways with your arms at your sides

  • Try to "feed" the dog your jacket, clothes, purse or any other item you can reach

  • Stay motionless and, again, don't run

What to Do If You Get Bit

  • Immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and warm water

  • Contact your physician for additional care and advice

  • Report the bite to your local animal care and control agency

  • Write down, and tell animal control, everything you know about the dog (the type, owner's name, what it looks like and where you saw it if it's a stray)

If You Own a Dog ... or Just Generally Love Them!
Dog bites are a very serious issue, but as any dog-lover (like all of us here at can attest, a properly trained dog can bring many remarkably positive things to our lives. The key, of course, is proper training.

If you believe your dog may not be adequately trained, it is very likely you are right. To avoid a potential disaster -- to someone else, to you or your family, to your dog -- SixWise urges you to get your dog properly trained.

To find professional trainers in your area, check out the Association of American Pet Trainers "Trainer Search" --


Dog Bite Law

Dog Bite Liability

The Humane Society of the United States

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