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Natural Dog Behaviour : healyourdognaturally.com

Pet Owner Tips: No Bites or Head Butts

USA Today 18.1.11

Martha Stewart’s rush to the emergency room last week is an all too common experience for pet owners. Even good dogs, when startled, can hurt us. Gary Richter talked with me about how you and family members can avoid similar experiences. He is head veterinarian at the Montclair Veterinary Hospital in Oakland, California.¬† Stewart required several stitches in her face after one of her French Bulldogs head-butted her. She says in her blog she was whispering goodbye to a dozing Francesca: “I must have startled her because she bolted upright with such force that she hit me in the face like a boxing glove hitting an opponent’s face. I was entirely startled and my head snapped back.”

Ouch. She said she realized it was a pretty serious gash and headed off to the emergency room, where a plastic surgeon stitched her up. Even good dogs can hurt us when startled, says Richter, but here’s how to reduce your chances:

  • Be aware of how you’re approaching a dog. Don’t approach a dog from above, or over the top of a dog. That can be threatening to dogs, who might view it as a sign of dominance. “That’s almost always why you tell someone when they first meet a dog to not pat it on the head, but to let it smell your hand.”
  • When approaching a sleeping dog, always warn it verbally before waking it. “As far as most dogs go, you’d be fine, but humans don’t like to be suddenly awakened. Dogs don’t either. Be aware that older dogs might not hear very well.”
  • Don’t stick your face in a dog’s face unless you really know the dog, and even then be careful not to startle the dog.
  • Children need to know that even nice dogs can bite so they should never run up to a dog.

The most common injuries from dogs are bites. 4.7 million people in the USA are bitten every year, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, with 800,000 requiring medical attention. Children are far more likely to be severely injured.

Yours in Health,
Sar Rooney BHSc., ND., DC., DASc., GDSc. (Hons) Zoology, MHATO, MATMS.
Canine Naturopath, Naturopathic Physician, Research Health Scientist, Zoologist 

Naturopathic Animal Services





categories: Dog Behavior

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