Most dogs are loving, devoted companions, but any dog may bite if provoked. The Ontario SPCA is very concerned about biting incidents and believes that understanding dog behaviour and practicing responsible dog care can be major steps towards bite prevention. The Society aims to make interactions between humans and dogs as safe and enjoyable as possible.
Even good dogs have bad days
It isn’t only “bad” dogs who bite. Dogs often bite when they are sick, injured or afraid. Some also bite to protect their homes, families, food and toys.
Different dogs react differently in each situation, so always be cautious, especially with dogs you don’t know. It’s important to be aware of situations which may frighten or threaten a dog. A neighbour’s normally friendly dog may become aggressive if someone enters the house unannounced or if a child reaches through a fence to touch the dog.
Safety guidelines for adults and children around dogs
- Don’t disturb a dog who is eating, sleeping or caring for puppies.
- Don’t approach a dog’s food, toys or bowl.
- Never tease, chase or yell at a dog.
- Don’t play roughly with dogs, or grab their ears and tails.
- Be aware that older dogs, and those with disabilities, may be easily irritated or frightened. Always treat these dogs with respect and be considerate of their limitations.
- Don’t take food away from a dog or pick up dropped food in a dog’s presence.
- Don’t run or ride a bicycle past a dog. Some dogs like to chase fast-moving objects such as skateboards.
- Don’t corner, crowd or stand over a dog, as this may make the dog feel defensive.
- Don’t approach unattended dogs – in yards, in cars or outside stores.
- “Make like a tree” (stand silently, fold arms inwards and avoid eye contact) if a dog gets too excited or becomes aggressive. Trees are boring to dogs and the dog will quickly lose interest and wander away.
Around unfamiliar dogs
- Avoid dogs you don’t know. Even if the dog is on a leash, it’s safer to step into a driveway, off the sidewalk, or cross the street.
- If you can’t avoid an unfamiliar dog and she approaches you, don’t stare. Allow the dog to sniff you. If you’re not sure she’s friendly, stand still “like a tree” and avoid eye contact.
- Most dogs will only sniff you then realize you’re not a threat.
- If the dog does attack, “feed” him your back pack, jacket, purse, or anything else that can come between you and the dog. Running away will make matters worse.
Greeting a dog
- Approach the dog calmly and from a slight angle.
- Look at the dog’s paws (avoid eye contact).
- Stand sideways with your shoulder facing the dog.
- Crouch sideways to greet small dogs or dogs that are lying down. Do not stand or bend directly over.
- Extend your hand held in a fist for the dog to sniff.
- Pet the dog on the side of the neck or on the chest. Avoid petting over the head.
Especially for parents
- Teach children about safe behaviour around dogs and about the importance of treating all animals with respect. Ensure children understand and observe the safety guidelines.
- When introducing a new dog into your household, observe the dog carefully and help teach appropriate behaviour. Sign up for a dog training class to learn how to give your dog positive and proper guidance.
- Babies and small children require adult supervision around all dogs, even their own.
- Monitor older children with new dogs or those of friends or family until you’re sure the dog is child-friendly.
Are you a responsible dog owner?
A dog’s guardian is responsible for preventing bites. If your dog bites someone, you can be prosecuted under the Dog Owners’ Liability Act. This can result in a fine, restrictions on your dog’s freedom, or even a death sentence for your dog.
Dog owners’ quiz (answers below)
- Is your dog spayed or neutered? Yes__ No__
- Are you socializing your puppy, or teaching your adult dog appropriate behaviour in different environments? Yes__ No__
- Do you leave your dog in your yard unsupervised? Yes__ No__
- Do you supervise your dog around all children and strangers? Yes__ No__
- Do you use the services of a responsible, qualified trainer or behaviourist to address behaviour problems? Yes__ No__
Answers for responsible dog owners
- YES Spayed and neutered dogs are less likely to bite.
- YES Dogs who were properly socialized as puppies are more stable and less likely to bite, but it’s never too late to teach appropriate behaviour.
- NO Unsupervised dogs often pick up bad habits such as territoriality and “boredom barking.” Tying the dog up only makes these problems worse.
- YES Dogs are like kids, and can behave very differently when Mom and Dad aren’t around.
- YES You can’t be an expert at everything. Call a qualified trainer to address problems.
For more information visit: www.kidsanddogs.ca.
Provided by the Ontario SPCA