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Blog: Stop Dog Bites Before They Strike

As part of National Dog Bite Prevention Week, a Newport Beach dog trainer explains what may be cute today as a puppy, will not be cute tomorrow, as an adult dog.

By: Vladislav Roytapel, the Russian Dog Wizard

More than four million people are bitten by dogs every year around the country, and more than 20 percent of the victims need medical attention.

As part of National Dog Bite Prevention Week, there are a few tips to be aware of in order to keep yourself, your family and your neighbors safe while in the presence of a dog. The sweetest puppy will try to growl, snap or dominate the owner somehow so it's important to take advantage of having the opportunity to raise it properly right from the start. The owner's reaction to these events will be the biggest deciding factor in whether or not the puppy grows to become a safe companion or an aggressive liability. Remember that what may be cute today as a puppy, will not be cute tomorrow when the dog grows into an adult.

Fortunately, early signs of aggression in a puppy can be easily cured. Unfortunately, signs of aggression in an older dog are very difficult to treat and there will be no guarantee to any dog owner, of any breed, that their mature dog will not bite. 

Many dogs today are being euthanized for aggressive behavior. In many of these cases, the aggression was allowed to start as a puppy and escalate through adulthood. So in order to prevent a dog from becoming aggressive, the owner must understand why a dog bites, under in what circumstances a dog will bite and know what can be done to prevent this type of behavior. 

Leadership

The absence of leadership is the biggest cause of all behavior problems in dogs, especially aggression. The presence of a strong and confident leader can soothe a dominant dog and raise the confidence of an insecure dog. It is a fact that a dog with good genetics and proper socialization can turn aggressive or develop behavioral issues if there is a lack of human leadership in the household. Leadership can be established through reinforced obedience training and not a bribery based modern way of dog training.

Breeding

Not every puppy is created equally. Naively, some people select certain breeds that are famous for their guarding or fighting ability. Some people are also getting dogs from incompetent breeders, whose breeding stock have a history of biting. These dogs are born to be aggressive! 

Pit Bulls for instance isn't the worse biter in America, but every their bite is equal to the power of the bites of 1,000 Yorkies at the same time. I am far form being breed biased because I have truly met and worked with wonderful pits but a pit bull's genetics isn't in dispute. Some of the genetic traits identified include unpredictability of aggression, the refusal to give up a fight, high pain tolerance and  the "hold and shake" bite style. My best professional advise is to socialize and professionally train them from day one or you will pay the price.

Socialization

Certain breeds need special management and socialization. These dogs should be owned by someone who is determined to properly manage and socialize at an early age and continue throughout the dogs' life. Positive and constant socialization with people should start after the first few weeks of life and be continued throughout adulthood. Special attention needs to be paid to the two critical stages of puppy development: four to eights weeks - socialization with other dogs / litter mates and eight to 12 weeks - socialization with humans. Make sure the puppy is desensitized to the following: touching its ears, paws, upper part of the neck and teeth.

Make this a pleasurable experience by combining touch with a special treat that the puppy only gets for being accepting of this exercise like American cheese or Russian kielbasa. Also, dogs must be socialized with children, especially if the owners do not have any in their family. Children make sharp, sudden movements which will activate the dogs' natural chasing instinct. These movements may also frighten dogs, especially the insecure, nervous ones. Positive connections between running, chasing and jumping children should be established by giving your dog special treats for calmly accepting the movements and sounds of children.

Please note, that even though positive connections are being established between your dog and your children, never allow your dog or puppy to be left alone with a child unsupervised.

Check back tomorrow for more tips on how to prevent dog bites. Vladae Roytapel is the Russian Dog Wizard from SoCal Dog Training in Newport Beach. He can be reached at 949-274-3445 or via email at socaldogtraining@gmail.com.

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