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Mark Bello
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Safety Tips to Avoid Dog Bites and Dog Bite Lawsuits

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Most people agree that dogs are wonderful; most families who have dogs consider their pets to be a part of the family. But, hat happens when your lovable pet bites a child so badly that the child is scarred for life? Such was the case of a dog that bit a three-year old tyke in the face. The parents were at the apartment of a friend and the dog looked very friendly, wagged it tail and made noises of greeting. Thinking it might be OK to let their child visit with the “doggie” they let the toddler get closer.

For unknown reasons, the dog lunged, biting the child in the face leaving a huge gash in his nose that took 15 stitches to close the wound. Thankfully the bite missed his eyes. This was a harrowing event for the little child and the parents. The dog bite personal injury case that followed took a long time to make its way through the courts; the owner denied the animal had vicious propensities and claimed the child provoked the dog.

Ultimately the case will need to revolve around facts pertaining to the dog’s history of interacting with other people, how it behaves at the vet’s and whether or not the owner (or the owner’s other friends) knew or should have known the dog had the capacity to attack a child. 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs every year and kids are more likely to be bitten than adults.

In this case, the parents are seeking damages to pay for the medical expenses and counseling for their child, who now suffers screaming nightmares as a result of the incident. But, was this just an unfortunate incident, or was it preventable?

According to DoggoneSafe.com , a "non-profit resource for dog bite prevention through education", dog bites are certainly preventable. This fascinating site has a "Doggone Safe store" where visitors can purchase products that help increase child safety around dogs. These products include a child safety board game called "Doggone Crazy!", a Clicker Puppy DVD to learn about clicker training, the Doggone Safe Children’s calendar and the Doggone Safe Be a Tree teacher kit.

Here are some of doggonesafe’s reasons why a dog bites a child:

  • The dog is protecting a possession, food or water dish or puppies.

  • The dog is protecting a resting place.

  • The dog is protecting its owner or the owner’s property.

  • The dog considers itself dominant over the child and the child has done something the dog considers to be insubordinate (e.g., hugging the dog, moving into the dog’s space, moving without permission from the dog, leaning or stepping over the dog).

  • The dog is frightened and the child has threatened it in some way (e.g., hugging the dog, rapid approach, leaning over or stepping over the dog).

  • The dog is old and grumpy and having a bad day and has no patience for the actions of a child.

  • The dog is injured.

  • The child has hurt or startled it by stepping on it, poking it or pulling its fur, tail or ears.

  • The dog has not learned bite inhibition and bites hard by accident when the child offers food or a toy to the dog.

  • The child and dog are engaging in rough play and the dog gets overly excited.

  • The dog views the child as a prey item because the child is running and/or screaming near the dog or riding a bicycle or otherwise moving past the dog.

Here are some of the warning signs that a bite may occur:

  • The dog gets up and moves away from the child.

  • The dog turns his head away from the child.

  • The dog looks at you with a pleading expression.

  • You can see the "whites" of the dogs eyes, in a "half moon" shape.

  • The dog yawns while the child approaches or is interacting with him.

  • The dog licks his chops while the child approaches or is interacting with him.

  • The dog suddenly starts scratching or licking himself.

And here are photos of 13 different dogs and whether they are "happy" or just want to be left alone.

Parents should supervise their kids, at all times, when they are with their own or another’s pet. Doggonesafe recommends that kids should be taught the following, regardless of whether the pet is theirs, a friend’s, relative’s or neighbor’s, or a stranger’s dog:

  • Don’t approach dogs that aren’t yours, even if the dog is on leash and with its handler (most children are bitten by a dog that they know, or by their own dog).

  • When a child visits a house with a dog, ensure that the dog will not be left unsupervised with the children.

  • Teach your child to "be a tree" when confronted with an unknown, overly friendly or hostile dog. This means: Stop. Fold your branches (hands) and watch your roots grow (look at feet) and count in your head until the dog goes away or help comes.

  • Teach your child to "be a rock" if the dog actually jumps on them and knocks them down (curl up into a "rock" and protect face and neck with hands and arms).

  • Never stare at a dog in the eyes or put their faces up to a dog’s face.

  • Never try to take something away from a dog.

  • Never go near a dog who is eating or drinking or chewing on something.

  • Never approach a dog that is on a bed or furniture.

  • Never approach a dog that is tied up or in a vehicle.

  • Never try to pet a dog through a fence or in a crate.

  • Never climb over a fence into a dog’s yard, even if the dog is usually friendly.

  • Never try to break up a dog fight or interact with dogs that are play fighting.

  • Leave dogs alone that are sleeping, resting, injured, very old or with puppies.

  • A safe dog is one that is panting, face happy looking and wagging his tail enthusiastically.

  • A dangerous dog has his mouth closed, ears forward, intense look.

  • A dog about to bite may be growling, showing his teeth, raising fur along his back or holding his tail high in the air (he may even be wagging it).

  • Teach children to play safe games such as fetch that do not involve running or rough play and to play only with their own dog.

And, dog owners should:

  • Supervise all interactions between children and your dog.

  • Attend obedience school and use a training method that stresses a reward-based approach (correction-based training methods can increase aggression).

  • Involve children in training and teach them to give the dog commands and reward the dog for obeying.

  • Prevent food bowl aggression and guarding behavior using positive methods

  • Teach your dog to accept human handling by associating all kinds of touches with food treats

  • Teach your puppy bite inhibition but do not prohibit your puppy from biting altogether at first – a puppy must learn bite inhibition by learning to bite more and more gently and then to stop biting altogether.

  • Give your dog lots of positive social interactions with people and other dogs.

  • Give your dog lots of exercise.

  • Don’t encourage any kind of aggressive behaviour or barking in your dog.

  • Don’t chain your dog or leave him alone in a yard for extended periods.

  • Give your dog his own special place and don’t allow him on furniture or on the bed.

  • Encourage children and other guests to leave the dog alone if he is resting in his special place, eating or chewing on something.

  • Teach your dog to walk on a leash without pulling.

  • Teach your dog not to jump on people.

  • Do not permit your dog to bark or paw at you or others for attention.

  • If your dog does show signs of aggression toward you or others, seek the assistance of a specialist in canine behavior.

  • Avoid using methods such as the "alpha rollover", shaking or pinning the dog to the ground – these may reduce aggression toward you, but may increase aggression toward children or other weaker family members.

  • Do not play tug-of-war or wrestling games with your dog and never allow children to play this way with the puppy or dog.

  • Use a crate, kennel, gates or closed doors to prevent your dog from interacting with visiting children when you cannot supervise.

The case that is the centerpiece of this article may take years to resolve. A child is scarred for life in what was, most certainly, a preventable incident. There are likely to be significant medical expenses, plastic or reconstuctive surgery, and lost wages because one or both parents need to miss work to attend to or care for the afflicted child. Lawsuit Financial reminds people in these types of situations that lawsuit funding can assist in providing necessary legal finance assistance for medical care and extraordinary expenses while you wait for your dog bite lawsuit to resolve. The best defense to these types of incidents is to learn some common-sense safety tips and the doggonesafe.com website is an excellent resource for people who have dogs, live around dogs or are contemplating adding a dog to their family.

1 Comment

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  1. Mike Bryant says:
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    This is all very good information that everyone could benefit from. We recently had a small baby killed by the family pet here in Minnesota. A tragedy that seems unimaginable and at the same time these lists can prevent it from happening.