Last year, Dog Fancy magazine named Austin one of the most dog-friendly cities in the country. As it stands, there are over 200 local restaurants that allow patrons to dine with their fur-family by their side. There are also a plethora of off-leash areas where dog owners can let their pets run and play with abandon. But as Austin’s population rises, so do the reports of dog bites. One study conducted by DogBite.org suggested that the adopted no-kill policies correlated with a rise in dog bites, though the city responded showing that the reports of dog bites have been increasing even before adopting no-kill policies, that the upward trend correlates more finely with Austin’s overt and consistent population growth. More people, more dogs, more dog bites seems to be the pattern. But with proper education of both dog owners and people interacting with dogs in public, we can help reduce this number.
Best Practices in Approaching a Dog
Whether greeting a friend’s dog at their house or a stranger’s dog at the dog park, it is important to know how to read a dog’s behavior to understand if they feel threatened. You wouldn’t run up to a stranger you just met and start rubbing their face, so you shouldn’t do it to a new dog. New dogs should be approached with respect and politeness. Allow the dog to see and sniff you first. Pay attention to their body language. The humane society suggests looking for these signs to tell if the dog is uncomfortable and vulnerable to biting:
- tensed body
- stiff tail
- pulled back head and/or ears
- furrowed brow
- eyes rolled so the whites are visible
- flicking tongue
- intense stare
- backing away
If the dog exhibits any of these signs, you should slowly back away. Do not turn and run; the dog’s instinct will be to chase you.
Teaching Children Best Practices
It is of vital importance that parents teach their children about how to approach dogs. Many dogs in public are very friendly and are apt to smother your child with kisses, but only after they are properly introduced. Children can be impulsive, especially when it comes to things that are fluffy, and might instinctively run up to a dog to start petting it. Parents should always ask the owner if their child can pet the dog and subsequently reinforce how to respectfully and appropriately approach the dog.
Be a Responsible Owner
It is important as a dog owner to know your dog like you know your other family members. Know their stressors, know their triggers, and act appropriately. If you know your dog is aggressive towards either humans or other dogs, don’t take them to an off-leash dog park or any space where they will be prone to aggressive behavior. It is also important that the owners invest in and reinforce training of their pets so that they don’t run up to strangers, who can be scared of dogs as well and in their fear indirectly cause the dog to bite.
The Yellow Dog Project
Have you seen a dog with a yellow ribbon on their leash? That means that the owner has assessed the dog’s behavior and/or condition and has determined that while the dog can be taken out in public, they need some space from contact with strangers. The Yellow Dog Project aims to educate the public about dogs who just need a little space. These dogs can be in pain, have trust issues with strangers, not bark before they bite, or have a multitude of other reasons why they need some space. Do not ask to pet these dogs, because the answer will be no.
Breaking up a Dog Fight
Sometimes just dogs playing together can look and sound scary to the owner. And sometimes, what started as just dogs being dogs can turn into actual aggression. But if your dog does end up in a fight with another dog, you should NEVER try to get in the middle of the fighting dogs. Do not try to grab a collar or separate the dogs by yourself. Yelling or screaming at the dogs usually only exacerbates the aggressive atmosphere and can worsen the situation. Put some other object between the dogs, like opening up a long umbrella or throwing a heavy blanket over the fighting dogs. Sometimes spraying water from a hose in the face of the aggressor can help end the fight. As a last resort, two people can simultaneously pull the back legs of both dogs away from each other, though this can also be dangerous and only used as a last resort if one of the dogs is dangerously injured.
If you are bitten by a dog, immediately wash out the wound with soap and water and monitor the wound for any infection. Dog bites are usually covered by the owner’s homeowner insurance. If the wound causes serious damage, contact an Austin personal injury lawyer; Jason McMinn and Justin McMinn will be happy to evaluate your case quickly and without cost. Call us at 512-474-0222, use the live chat on our website, fill out the form on this page, or email firstname.lastname@example.org