Saturday, May 14, 2011
National Dog Bite Prevention Week
Next week is National Dog Bite Prevention week, and in anticipation the USPS has released a list of the 25 cities with the highest frequency of dog bites sustained by mail carriers. Sadly, both Seattle and Tacoma made the list- at numbers 10 and 21 respectively. Medical expenses related to dog bites cost the USPS an estimated $1.2 million dollars every year!
The American Veterinary Medical Association teaches this handy acronym for safely petting a dog: WAIT. The W stands for (you guessed it) "wait." When you first see a dog you want to be introduced to, wait and observe for a minute. Does it look friendly? Is the owner in a rush? Do you think the dog would like to meet you? A stands for "ask." Always ask the owner's permission before you pet their dog. They know a lot more about him or her than you do! Maybe their dog is wary of baseball caps, or large coats (which are both fairly common anxieties). The I stands for "invite." Curl up your hand into a fist, and hold it by your side or a little out toward the dog. Let it come to you, and move at its own pace. Once the dog has sniffed you, you can "Touch." When you are petting a new dog, try to make yourself small--kneel or crouch down in front of the dog, and pet with your eyes averted from the dog's face. Looking into a dog's eyes can be seen as a challenge, and especially on leash and around the owner. Never bend or loom over a dog, in dog-language this is a threatening posture.
These are handy rules to remember, and to teach your kids. Having the right etiquette when approaching a dog can make all the difference. When you are the owner whose dog is being pet, make certain that you are aware of your dog and any possible "petters" at all times. You are much more in tune with your pet than others, and can notice little things that let you know he or she is nervous. Flattened ears, bristling hair, and a tucked tail are all signs that your dog may be too nervous to be approached. Never be embarrassed for asking somebody to not pet your dog--you are helping them and your dog to avoid a potentially dangerous situation. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
You've heard us say it a lot, but it always bears repeating: dogs can act very different on leash. They can experience what animal behaviorists call "leash reactivity," which just means that they are in a higher state of arousal that can make their behavior unpredictable. Two dogs that are best friends in the play areas can come out opposite doors in the lobby and flip the switch to seeming like they could never get along! This is why it is best to not let dogs meet on leash--a highly aroused dog can slip into fearful or aggressive behavior at the drop of a hat. They are experiencing a "fight-or-flight" response, but the leash is limiting their options, which leads them to become more aroused. You can see how this cycle is very frustrating for our four-legged-friends!
If you take nothing else away, remember to be always be aware. Paying attention and accurately judging situations could really reduce the number of dog bites in the U.S. Maybe if we can spread the news, we can get Tacoma off of the USPS's list!
P.S.--Here's a peek of today's action!