According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 5 million people per year experience a dog bite or full canine attack. And, of those attacked, 800,000 victims require medical attention for a variety of issues such as muscle and tissue damage, infection, or rabies. Though certain breeds are considered more aggressive than others, any animal may exhibit aggressive behavior, and preventing said behavior is crucial to decreasing the incidence of attack.
Several risk factors for dog bites or attacks have been identified by the CDC. Naturally, families with dogs in their homes assume a higher risk, based solely on proximity. Of the 800,000 victims requiring medical attention each year, nearly half are children. Children aged five to nine years are the most likely potential victims of canine aggression. This may be attributed to both proximity and the natural affinity children have for animals. Males, both child and adult, are more likely to experience dog bite or attack than females.
Many factors may affect an animal's behavior, regardless of innate aggressive tendencies. Children and adults should be aware of such considerations and keep them in mind while interacting with animals. An unknown dog is best left alone, as is a dog guarding puppies, eating, or sleeping. A dog should not be touched without adult supervision, the permission of its owner, or without first allowing the animal to "investigate" the human. It is also not a good idea to make direct eye contact with a canine. Strays or dogs displaying erratic behavior should be reported to animal control authorities.
Within the pet-owner's home, there are also preventive measures. Extreme caution should always be observed in households with infants and toddlers. Selecting passive or docile breeds, or choosing dogs with no history of aggressive behavior are all preventative measures. Spaying or neutering generally lessens aggressive behaviors, and is also recommended.
How to Handle Animal Confrontations
If approached or cornered by a dog, do not run or make sudden movements. Avoid screaming or shouting, and remain as quiet and still as possible. If knocked to the ground by an animal, roll into a ball, being sure to protect neck, face, and limbs, and remain motionless.
In areas with large dog populations, or communities with non-tethered animals, handheld dog deterrent devices provide additional safety. These battery-operated devices emit a harmless ultrasonic signal, which startles the animal and causes the dog to stop its approach, move away, or flee. The ultrasonic mechanism is effective up to 15 feet away from the animal in question.
Each year, millions of people fall victim to bites and/or attacks from dogs. Many of these often require medical attention. The best cure for canine attack, however, is a proactive approach. Knowing the risk factors for attack and being aware of preventive measures are the cornerstones of anticipating and preventing animal attacks. Coupled with the appropriate behaviors and/or use of humane deterrent methods during an animal confrontation, this knowledge can help reduce the incidence of injury resulting from animal aggression.