A dog attack is a terrifying and traumatic experience. Although very few attacks are fatal, even a small bite can be dangerous. There’s the frightening threat of rabies as well as bacterial infections which can become very serious if not treated in time.
Infections and complications are more likely in the elderly, children and people with lowered immunity. It’s estimated that 77% of dog bites are from the pets of families or friends and 50% occur on the dog owner’s property.
The majority of attacks by dogs are inadvertently provoked by humans, particularly young children who have not been taught the correct way to behave around animals and pets. Children often unknowingly engage in behavior that will trigger an attack, for example, approaching a chained dog, trying to hug or kiss an unfamiliar animal, trying to pull its tail or engaging in other behavior that the dog may feel is threatening. Small children up to two years old should always be supervised around dogs and older children must be taught to respect a dog’s personal space, particularly when it’s eating, sleeping, injured or has puppies.
Dogs bite people for different reasons. The main causes are:
1. Dominance aggression, where the animal feels the needs to assert that he/she is in charge.
2. Fear aggression which is most often directed towards strangers, where the animal feels threatened or alarmed.
3. Protection of valuables which can include food, toys, territory or even other members of ‘the pack,’ including human members of their ‘family’. Dogs have been known to ‘protect’ one family member from another, chasing crying children away from their mothers or chasing husbands out of bedrooms.
These three main causes can be avoided by early training and discipline.
4. Maternal aggression where the female dog is protecting her new born puppies.
5. Pain aggression – animals that are sick or injured, or just old and achy, should be treated with special caution.
6. Redirected aggression, for example when trying to break up a dog fight. When dogs are fighting and human hands reach in to grab collars, tails or legs the excited animal will blindly lash out and bite. Fights are best broken up by loud noises or a strong blast of water from a bucket or hosepipe.
7. Pestered beyond the limit aggression is a special category and most often applies to children. If a child hugs a sleeping dog, blows puffs of air in his face, tries to ride him like a pony, pokes, prods and tickles him, sooner or later the dog will say ‘Enough’ the only way he knows how – through a bite.
If you are approached by a menacing dog don’t scream or try to run away, this will only provoke it. Stay quiet and still, with your arms at your sides or folded across your chest. Don’t make threatening gestures or try to frighten the dog and avoid eye contact.
If a dog bite happens and the owner is around, take down names and contact numbers so you can get proof of rabies vaccinations from them. Gently clean the bite wound with antibacterial soap and water as soon as possible and seek medical attention immediately – either your regular doctor if the wound is mild or the emergency room if the bite is severe. Apart from rabies injections you might need an anti-tetanus injection and antibiotics. Report the matter to the police and to animal control like VAWZ or ZSPCA so they can make sure the owner prevents their dog from biting someone else.
VAWZ 0778 431 528, 0775 722 449, 0774 168 218. ZNSPCA 497574, emergencies 0778 844 196