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Woof Wednesday: Bedfellows, Bites & Be A Tree

Even tiny dogs bite.

I sleep with a hairy male who is not my husband–Do you sleep with your dog, too? (what did you THINK I was going to say?!). My last shepherd didn’t want to spend time on the bed, probably because his hip dysplasia made leaps up and down uncomfortable. But Magical-dawg thinks nothing of snoozing with us. And my husband and I like it. But lately, a story made the rounds based on an upcoming report from experts at UC-Davis that sleeping with pets can kill you.

Give me a break! I’ll admit that canine snores or feline  head-bonks might interrupt slumber at times and cause loss of sleep. And our animal companions to at times play hitch-hiker to buggy pests and parasites. The key to safe slumbers with pets is to ensure your canine crew is healthy, and use common sense. Sick pets don’t have to sleep with you to transmit illness, after all. Preventing dog bites rates much higher with me, than banning a pet from my pillow.

I’ve been asked to be an “expert witness” in a dog bite trial. Background on the case is heartbreaking, with a young child terribly injured, the dog killed, and family distraught. What’s doubly sad—IT DIDN’T HAVE TO HAPPEN!

Preventing dog bites is a three-prong approach. First, socialize your puppies! (check last week’s “Woof Wednesday” blog for more on socialization). A big part of puppy socialization includes teaching bite inhibition, so that if they do bite, they cause no harm. Because let’s face it—ALL dogs bite, using their mouth to investigate their world, play with humans and others, and defend themselves and perceived threats.

Second, educate yourselves about dog communication. Dogs nearly always give clear signals before they bite, but humans miss the message or misunderstand entirely. For instance, a wagging tail does not necessarily mean the dog is friendly. Check out more behavior myths at this Paw Nation article.

Third, educate your kids. Children suffer dog bites more often than anyone else. Approximately 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year with 800,000 individuals—half of them children—requiring medical treatment. In fact, half of all children in the US experience a dog bite by age 12, with 5 to 9 year olds and boys at significantly higher risk. The CDC reports that of those injured, 386,000 require treatment in an emergency department and about a dozen die. Read the rest of this article about keeping pets safe from dog bites.

Woofs & Wags,

amy

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About amyshojai

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified animal behavior consultant, award winning author, and spokesperson to the pet industry.

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