National Dog Bite Prevention Week Is May 15-22

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) hosts this year’s National Dog Bite Prevention Week to help stop the nearly 5 million dog bites that happen every year. Internationally recognized dog trainer Victoria Stilwell, from Animal Planet’s “It’s Me or the Dog,” will be joining AVMA veterinarians, the United States Postal Service (USPS), pediatricians, plastic surgeons and representatives of the insurance industry in offering tips to prevent dog bites.

“Veterinarians recognize, while there are 72 million good dogs in the United States, any dog can bite if it is frightened or feels threatened, even the family pet. Unfortunately, children are most often the victims,” says Dr. Larry M. Kornegay, AVMA president.

A passionate advocate for science-based, force-free training methods, Victoria Stilwell joined the National Dog Bite Prevention campaign to help support studies from board-certified veterinary behaviorists and behavioral scientists suggesting that forcing dogs into submission (e.g., leash yanking, rolling them on their backs) as a means of preventing and correcting behavioral problems may have potentially dangerous consequences for owners. Because fear and anxiety are common causes of aggression, the use of dominance techniques and/or punishment can directly exacerbate the problem by increasing the animal’s fear and anxiety.

“Dogs need and want us to provide effective leadership, but the most effective leaders do not simply impose their will on their followers,” says Stilwell. “And I firmly believe the only way to truly ensure that we are successful in achieving the necessary balance with our dogs is by using positive reinforcement and treating them with the same respect that we ask of them. It’s not the breed of the dog that causes the bite, but rather how well the dog is trained and controlled.”

Injury rates are highest among children between the ages of 5 and 9 years old. The dogs biting these children are not strangers. In victims younger than 18 years old, the family dog inflicts 30 percent of all dog bites, and a neighbor’s dog is responsible for another 50 percent of these bites.

“The AVMA urges all families to start early in educating children about safety around dogs, even if you don’t own a dog,” Dr. Kornegay says. “We have numerous engaging educational programs for children starting as young as preschool to teach children the right and the wrong way to interact with dogs.”

Story By Elaine Furst For Dog Files