The Star-Herald

Chew on these bite prevention tips

Being a “big brown” delivery driver for 25-plus years, I certainly had my share of adventures with thousands of dogs from Bridgewater to the Allagash.  I have always loved dogs and have never had any fear of them.  But I did learn quickly to have respect for them.  I have also had my share of dog bites, trips to the emergency room and tetanus shots.  

Most of the bites I received were from small dogs that bit the minute I turned my back to leave … sneaky little devils.  Many times people would answer their door with their dogs charging out at me and would always say, “Don’t worry, he won’t bite.”  Well, on several occasions, that wasn’t the case.  I had several scary encounters with large, aggressive dogs. One literally jumped in my truck and bit me, the other charged at me and bit when I was handing a package to a young child.  I’m pretty sure he was just being protective of the child, but it was still an unsettling experience.

Every year, thousands of kids suffer dog bites, frequently inflicted by animals they know.  According to government statistics, children between the ages of 5 and 9 are most at risk.  

Manage your dog

  1. Watch for signs of stress, such as motionlessness in an otherwise active dog, activity in an otherwise calm dog, moving/turning away, lowering the head over an object or food, staring at a child, and whining/muttering/growling.
  2. When your dog shows signs of stress, believe him.  That he usually is “good around kids” is irrelevant; if he’s showing signs of stress or avoidance, act immediately by separating the child from the dog or the dog from the child.
  3. Confine your canine.  If you can’t be there to monitor a situation, separate the pet with a gate, closed door or crate, so even when you cannot help create good moments, you can at least prevent bad ones.

Manage your child

  1. Model manners.  Act how you want your child to act around animals.  Be calm and respectful to dogs in general and yours in particular.  Explain why you respect his or her space, and are gentle and kind.  Avoid rough games that may be fine for you, but not your child, to play.
  2. Slow down.  Teach your child to slow down or stand still when a dog starts to get excited.  Explain that dogs like to chase things that move fast, so moving fast can cause chasing.
  3. Be calm, be clear and follow through.  If you tell your child not to bother, sit on, chase after, wake up or bother the dog, act on it if your child does not respond.  Make that something your child can count on and both your dog and your child will be safer (and happier).

And as far as your delivery drivers: Don’t assume that they love animals and are comfortable around all pets.  Having a fear of dogs and being “surprised” by your excited pet is never a good thing.  Being mindful of how your pet will react when meeting a strange person or child will only benefit both you and your pet.

“A house is not a home without a pet” (Anonymous).

Gloria J. Towle is the secretary and a member of the Board of Directors of the Central Aroostook Humane Society.

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