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Does your dog bite? How to protect your dog and yourself from liability

The MuttShack Foundation for Animal Foster and Rescue states that dogs bite more than 4.7 million people each year in the United States.

The fault can be of the dog, the owner or the victim. But the one who pays invariably is the owner. The dog owner is responsible for paying for medical bills, time lost from work, as well as pain and suffering. The one that suffers the most is the dog that is abandoned in a shelter or thrown away.

Dog owners must take a greater share of the responsibility for protecting people and other animals from their dogs, and also take responsibility for protecting their dogs from people. Children will run to a dog screaming with joy and scare the dog. A dog in his enthusiasm to greet someone may jump up and scratch him. A bystander can aggressively approach or provoke a dog. Neighborhood kids may let the dogs out just for fun.

There is no way to guarantee that your dog will never bite someone. But you can significantly reduce the risk:

o Spay or neuter your dog. This important and routine 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 much less likely to bite.

o Socialize your dog. Introduce your dog to many different types of people and situations so he won’t be nervous or scared in normal social circumstances.

o Train your dog. Accompanying your dog to a training class is a great way to socialize him and learn proper training techniques. Training your dog is a family affair. Each member of your household should learn the training techniques and participate in the education of her dog. Never send your dog out for training; only you can teach your dog to behave in your house. Keep in mind that training classes are a great investment even for experienced dog handlers.

o Be alert with your dog around children. Unruly play can startle your dog and he may react by biting or biting. Neighborhood kids may be attracted to your dog, so make sure you have a childproof lock on your gate and that there is no way for little hands to get through the fence.

o Teach your dog appropriate behavior. Never teach your dog to chase or attack others, even for fun. Your dog may not always understand the difference between play and real life situations. Set appropriate limits for your dog’s behavior.

Don’t wait for an accident.

The first time he exhibits dangerous behavior toward anyone, seek professional help from your veterinarian, an animal behavior specialist, or a qualified dog trainer. Dangerous behavior towards other animals can eventually lead to dangerous behavior towards people and is also a reason to seek professional help.

o 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 let your dog roam alone. Make your dog a member of your family. Dogs that spend a lot of time alone in the backyard or on a chain often become dangerous. Dogs that are well socialized and supervised are much less likely to bite.

o Stay on the safe side. If you don’t know how your dog will react to a new situation, be careful. If your dog can panic in crowds, keep him home. If your dog overreacts to visits, delivery, or personal service, keep him in another room. Work with professionals to help your dog get used to these and other situations. However, until you are sure of his behavior, avoid stressful environments.

I thought you said your dog doesn’t bite? “That’s not my dog”… says Peter Sellers.

Seriously, if your dog bites someone, act responsibly; follow these steps to mitigate the damage:

o Confine your dog immediately and check the condition of the victim. If necessary, seek medical help.

o Provide the victim with important information, such as the date of their dog’s last rabies vaccination.

o You must fully cooperate with the animal control officer responsible for obtaining information about your dog. If your dog must be quarantined for an extended period of time, ask if he can be confined within your home or at your veterinarian’s hospital. Strictly follow the quarantine requirements for your dog.

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

If you have to let your dog go, don’t leave him in a shelter, where he will only be given a few days to live. Take the time to find him a new family. For this there is a support and training network called MuttShack, at http://www.Muttshack.org, which will teach you how to relocate your pet.

o If your dog’s dangerous behavior can’t be controlled and you have to make the painful decision to give him up, don’t give him to someone else without carefully evaluating that person’s ability to protect your dog from biting. Because you know your dog is dangerous, you may be liable for any damage it causes, even when you give it to someone else.

o Never give your dog to someone who wants a dangerous dog. “Bad” dogs are often forced to live miserable, isolated lives, and are even more likely to attack someone in the future. If you must abandon your dog due to dangerous behavior, consult your veterinarian and your local animal care and control agency or humane society about your options. Stay safe, be responsible, and most importantly, teach your dog to be a good canine citizen.

o Your dog lives to make you happy. If he understands what you need from him, he will make you proud.

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