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Bite-proof Your Dog

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By The Humane Society of the United States

Q: Is there any way I can "bite-proof" my dog?
A: There is no way to guarantee that your dog will never bite someone. But you can significantly reduce the risk. Here's how:

Spay or neuter your dog. This important procedure will reduce your dog's desire to roam and fight with other dogs, making safe confinement an easier task. Spayed or neutered dogs are three times less likely to bite.

Socialize your dog. Introduce your dog to many different types of people and situations so that he or she is not nervous or frightened under normal social circumstances.

Train your dog. Accompanying your dog to a training class is an excellent way to socialize him and to learn proper training techniques. Training your dog is a family matter. Every member of your household should learn the training techniques and participate in your dog's education. Never send away your dog to be trained; only you can teach your dog how to behave in your home.

Teach your dog appropriate behavior. Don't play aggressive games with your dog such as wrestling, tug-of-war, or "siccing" your dog on another person. Set appropriate limits for your dog's behavior. Don't wait for an accident. The first time he exhibits dangerous behavior toward any person, particularly toward children, seek professional help from your veterinarian, an animal behaviorist, or a qualified dog trainer. Your community animal care and control agency or humane society may also offer helpful services. Dangerous behavior toward other animals may eventually lead to dangerous behavior toward people, and is also a reason to seek professional help.

Be a responsible dog owner. License your dog as required by law, and provide regular veterinary care, including rabies vaccinations. For everyone's safety, don't allow your dog to roam. Make your dog a member of your family: Dogs who spend a great deal of time alone in the backyard or tied out on a chain often become dangerous. Dogs who are well-socialized and supervised rarely bite.

Err on the safe side. If you don't know how your dog will react to a new situation, be cautious. If your dog may panic in crowds, leave him at home. If your dog overreacts to visitors or delivery or service personnel, keep him in another room. Work with professionals to help your dog become accustomed to these and other situations. Until you are confident of his behavior, however, avoid stressful settings.

Q: What should I do if my dog bites someone?
A: If your dog bites someone, act responsibly by taking these steps:

Confine your dog immediately and check on the victim's condition. If necessary, seek medical help.

Provide the victim with important information, such as the date of your dog's last rabies vaccination.

Cooperate with the animal control official responsible for acquiring information about your dog. If your dog must be quarantined for any length of time, ask whether he may be confined within your home or at your veterinarian's hospital. Strictly follow quarantine requirements for your dog.

Seek professional help to prevent your dog from biting again. Consult with your veterinarian, who may refer you to an animal behaviorist or a dog trainer. Your community animal care and control agency or humane society may also offer helpful services.

If your dog's dangerous behavior cannot be controlled, do not give him to someone else without carefully evaluating that person's ability to protect him and prevent him from biting. Because you know your dog is dangerous, you may be held liable for any damage he does even when he is given to someone else.

Don't give your dog to someone who wants a dangerous dog: "Mean" dogs are often forced to live miserable, isolated lives, and become even more likely to attack someone in the future. If you must give up your dog due to dangerous behavior, consult with your veterinarian and with your local animal care and control agency or humane society about your options.

Copyright © 2001 The Humane Society of the United States All rights reserved.