Preventing Dog Bites

Edited by Admin
Preventing Dog Bites

Preventing Dog Bites


For dog lovers, one of the great pleasures of staying home during the pandemic has been being able to spend quality time with their canine companions. In fact, it’s become increasingly difficult to find a dog to adopt, as people who are now able to be at home for extended periods of time have been snapping up rescue pups almost as soon as they become available. Toronto is very dog-friendly, and it’s estimated that there are at least 230,000 canine residents of the city. It’s fun getting to know the dogs in your neighbourhood, and it’s possible that many of us know the names of our furry neighbours better than those of their humans. However, dogs are animals, and never 100% predictable; sometimes dogs bite. Healthcare providers have seen a jump in serious dog bites since people have been spending more time in close proximity to dogs. Learning more about how to prevent dog bites will help to keep you and your family safe.


Understanding the Dog’s Point of View


First, it’s important to understand the reasons why dogs bite. We often think of dogs who bite as aggressive, but that is not usually the reason for a dog attack. The most common reasons why dogs bite are:

  • Because they have been startled.
  • Because they are afraid.
  • Because they are reacting to a stressful situation.

Dogs also bite to protect their puppies or objects of value such as food, or a favourite toy. Dogs who are sick or in pain may lash out when a person tries to touch them, and dogs who get carried away playing games such as chase or tug-of-war can bite in excitement. Contrary to popular belief, a dog’s breed does not predict whether or not they might bite. Any dog– old or young, male or female, large or small – can bite under certain circumstances.

Since most bites happen to children, it’s important never to leave children and dogs alone together, even if the dog is a beloved family pet. This is particularly true when children are small and before they understand how their behaviour may affect a dog. A toddler who pulls a dog’s tail or ears, pokes a dog in the eye or smacks the dog may provoke the dog to fight back in self defense. Even a cursory scroll through your social media feeds will usually reveal a photo or two of a dog being crowded or groped by a small child, a situation that puts the child in danger and is unfair to the dog.

If you are in proximity to an animal, it’s important to be able to read the signals that they give you. A growl is an obvious warning to back off, but dogs also display other behaviours that indicate stress, such as repeated yawning, licking their lips, whining, pacing, or shaking. A dog may simply turn away when stressed, a signal that is often disregarded.

Educate your children about how (or whether) to approach a dog. You should never approach a dog that is not with its owner. Always ask whether or not it’s safe to approach the dog and listen if the owner tells you that it’s not. Never reach through a fence to pet a dog in a yard. Don’t approach a dog when it is eating or sleeping, or if it is sick or injured. Be extremely careful when approaching a mother dog with puppies; leave her alone if she seems anxious about your presence. And obviously, if a dog is growling or barking or appears to be trying to get away from you, back off.


If a Bite Occurs


Toronto Public Health advises that if a dog bites or attacks you and breaks the skin, you should:

  • Seek medical attention (call 911 if serious).
  • Obtain the dog owner’s name and address.
  • Obtain information about anyone who witnessed the bite.
  • Immediately wash the bite or wound with soap and water for at least 15 minutes.
  • Apply an antiseptic to the wound, if available.
  • Take a clear photo of the bite injury – document the date and time of the photo.
  • As soon as practical in your own handwriting, make clear concise notes on the date, time and location where the bite occurred, what happened, and a clear description of the dog.

Depending on the details of the incident, Toronto Public Health may investigate, including assessing the level of risk associated with the bite with regard to rabies and confining the dog for observation. Toronto Animal Services will also respond and investigate the incident. If the dog is found to be dangerous, they may order consequences such as: that the dog be muzzled when in public, that the dog be prohibited from using the city’s leash-free dog parks, or that the dog receive obedience and socialization training.

If you or a family member has been seriously injured by a dog bite, contact a personal injury lawyer, who can advise you about your options regarding compensation.