Dogs are marvelous animals, but they can be dangerous.
During National Dog Bite Prevention Week, May 21-27, The Humane Society of Collier County urges everyone to use common sense and courtesy to avoid what it calls a preventable danger.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that at least 60 percent of all dog-bite victims are children and that up to one million dog-bite cases a year require medical attention.
Injuries can be anything from small punctures to gross facial disfigurements or even death, Sue Gregory, Humane Society Adoption Center manager said. Senior citizens and service personnel, such as letter carriers and meter readers, are frequent victims.
Gregory said dog owners can reduce chances of their pets biting people by first selecting a breed that is appropriate for their lifestyle.
"Chihuahuas and cocker spaniels are generally better in a home with adults only," she said. "Labradors, hounds and beagles usually have good dispositions and are fine around children."
Every dog for adoption at The Humane Society undergoes temperament testing and only those that pass are offered for adoption.
Socialization also is important. Dog owners can keep their pet socialized by taking them out for walks on a leash and being around people and other dogs in a friendly setting.
"Giving your dog lots of exercise also helps it to relax, but do avoid violent games such as tug-on-a-rope, or wrestling," Gregory said.
Spaying and neutering greatly moderates a dog's natural aggressiveness and makes it more manageable.
"Effective training keeps a dog controllable and happy while providing exercise and a positive bonding experience for owner and dog," said Jeannie Bates, dog trainer at The Humane Society.
Training is a key to thwarting dog bites. The Humane Society offers a certified Good Dog Training Program, done by Bates.
"A dog owner whose dog successfully completes a certified training program may even qualify for a homeowner's insurance discount," Bates said. However particular dogs, such as a pit bull, Doberman pinscher and rottweiler may not be covered, causing personal liability. She stressed the importance of teaching puppies dog-bite inhibition.
"Dogs are natural explorers and puppies explore with their mouth," she said. "Normal nippiness can be discouraged by a sharp, verbal expression." Bates suggests that once a dog begins to bite people it is best to call a professional. In some cases the best an owner can hope for is to manage the behavior and avoid triggers that cause dogs to bite, like tugging on a toy or towel.
"It is all about responsible ownership and management," she said.
Most victims are children and elderly women who inadvertently aggravate a dog by their own fear, giving off the wrong body language. Children also have a tendency to chase after a dog to play.
"Teaching children how to behave with dogs is another good way to prevent dog bites," Bates said.
Three of the top tips she advised for anyone around dogs are never surprise a dog, disturb its puppies, or try to take its food away while it is eating. Keeping vaccinations current is also a must for dogs. Vaccinations protect them from giving a disease, or receiving a disease from another dog, Bates said.
Size of dog does not always determine where it should live.
"There are some large breeds that have low activity levels that can adapt to smaller living spaces," she said. "It is more important that the dog be mentally stimulated."
Bates said there is no set number for dogs, or animals, that should occupy a home.
"I don't think there is a magic number, it depends more on the person's ability to take care of however many animals they elect to have," she said.
For more information and to learn more about pet adoption, call 643-1880.