Preventing Dog Bites During the Holiday Season

By Ashley Watson

Dog-on-porchAccording to the AVMA, more than 4.7 million people in the United States are bitten by a dog each year. Of that number, approximately 800,000 victims require medical attention. While young children are at greater risk of being bitten by a dog, delivery people and house guests are also at a higher risk during the holidays.

Despite the large number of dog bites reported each year, they are preventable. With the right training and a lot of patience, you can help prevent dog attacks. This week’s post will provide a few tips, along with what to do if a dog bites you or someone else.

 Responsible Pet Ownership

One of the best ways to keep your dog from attacking or biting people is to simply be a responsible pet owner. Take your dog to the vet for regular visits, and make sure your dog is current on all vaccinations. The Rabies vaccination is especially important since this disease is transmitted through animal bites. Neutering your dog is also part of responsible dog ownership; neutered dogs are less aggressive and less likely to bite.

Socializing your dog is another tip provided by the AVMA, and the sooner you can do this, the easier it will be to ensure that your dog behaves well around other people and pets. Some veterinarians offer socialization classes for puppies to help dogs learn good behavioral habits at an early age. Every dog is different, so it’s also helpful to learn how to recognize the signs when your dog is upset or could potentially attack. Lastly, training your dog basic commands early on will help to ensure that your dog will be well-behaved around strangers.


Retriever-playing-in-snowRemember that a tired dog is a good dog. Taking your dog to a dog park is the perfect way to give your dog exercise and provide social time. When dogs get play time with other dogs, they are less likely to act out. However, you should always keep an eye on your dog, even if you think your dog is well-behaved. Always be on the lookout for potentially dangerous situations, such as another dog that appears threatening. Overall, exercise keeps dogs mentally stimulated. Dogs that don’t get enough exercise (or dogs that are left alone for long periods of time) get bored and may become aggressive or destructive.

Tips for the Holidays

After children, mail carriers and meter readers are next on the list of people who are bitten by dogs the most often. If you are expecting a lot of packages during the holidays, make sure you keep your dog inside during delivery times. Put the dog in the crate if you have one, or keep the dog in a room with the door closed until the delivery person leaves. Even if your dog doesn’t have a history of attacking strangers, dogs can be unpredictable, especially when there’s more commotion or stress.

Girl-hugging-puppyIf you are planning on having a lot of guests for the holidays, make sure your dog knows how to behave around small children. Don’t leave small children alone with the dog, and make sure their parents have spoken with them about how to treat dogs. Teach children how to gently pet a dog, and keep the dog away from any child who is upset or screaming. Don’t disturb a dog while it’s eating, sleeping, or caring for puppies, which includes bathing or feeding. It’s always a good idea to keep some extra Composure around during stressful times for pets, such as a large holiday gathering.

What To Do When a Dog Attacks

  • Keep still. If a dog approaches you in a threatening manner, stay still. Usually, once the dog recognizes that you are not a threat, the dog will go away.
  • Remain calm. Don’t raise your voice or scream. Speak firmly but calmly, and try to avoid eye contact.
  • Back away slowly. If the dog continues to threaten you, back away from the dog slowly. Turning and running will only instigate the dog.
  • Protect your face: If the dog does attack and knocks you down, curl into a ball and tuck in your chin, covering your neck and face with your hands over your head.
  • Restrain the dog. If the dog bites, restrain or confine the dog immediately.
  • Check the victim. Call 911 if the bite is severe. Wash the wound with soap and water if it is minor, but you should always check with your doctor after a dog bite.
  • Comply with local ordinances. In certain towns and cities, pet owners are required to euthanize their dog if the animal has bitten someone and doesn’t have a current rabies vaccination. Check with your vet if you aren’t sure whether or not your dog is up to date with vaccinations.

How do you keep your dog calm during the holiday season? Share your tips with us on Facebook.