AUSTIN—National Dog Bite Prevention Week 2013 runs from May 19 to May 25 and offers an annual reminder of the fact that the majority of dog bites can be prevented. The Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA), the state association for Texas veterinarians, would like to remind pet owners and the public that preventing dog bites begins with proper socialization for dogs and a better understanding of canine visual cues for humans.
"An inability to see and interpret the visual cues that dogs send us results in the majority of dog bites to adults," said Valarie Tynes, DVM, an animal behaviorist and TVMA member whose Premier Veterinary Behavior Consulting practice is based in Sweetwater, Texas. "In addition, people should be more aware of how their actions look to a dog. Too many people don't realize that staring at a dog, looming over it and extending your hand over the dog's head can be perceived as very threatening by many dogs."
Dr. Tynes also suggests that parents play a role in preventing dog bites in children.
"Children are the victims of dog bites in a majority of cases," she said. "This is a tragic and senseless fact that could be prevented if parents were more informed and taught their children to pay attention to a dog's signals and to never approach strange dogs."
When it comes to modifying the dog's behavior, Dr. Tynes advocates that it's best to start early.
"Probably the most important thing you can do for your dog is to socialize it well while it's young and seek help immediately for problem behaviors," she said. "Any problem behavior, including aggression, can be treated, but the sooner people seek help, the better their chance of successfully dealing with the problem. Even the smallest degree of aggression, such as lip lifting, growling and snapping, should not be ignored. People should speak to their veterinarian right away if they see any behavior like that."
About The Texas Veterinary Medical Association
Founded in 1903, the Texas Veterinary Medical Association is a professional association composed of more than 3,700 veterinarians committed to protecting public health, promoting high educational, ethical and moral standards within the veterinary profession and educating the public about animal health and its relationship to human health. For more information, call 512/452-4224 or visit www.tvma.org.