Submitted by Debby Thompson
The WBNA would like to encourage everyone to review the following safety tips. The AVMA and CDC offer several suggestions on how we can help protect our kids. Educating potential victims, encouraging responsible dog ownership and enforcing consequences for those with vicious dogs are key to successfully managing this problem within our community.
As a parent, you should never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog (even the most trusted family pet), always be aware of your surroundings and potentially dangerous situations, and start teaching your children at an early age to be careful around pets. Any dog can bite.
Basic safety to teach and review regularly:
- Don’t pet any dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.
- Never disturb a dog that’s sleeping, eating or caring for puppies.
- Don’t approach strange dogs.
- Ask permission from a dog’s owner before petting the dog.
- Do not play with a dog unless supervised by an adult.
- If an unfamiliar dog approaches you, remain motionless and avoid direct eye contact. Do not run. Do not scream. If you must move, back away slowly until the dog is out of sight.
- If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and lie still. Tuck your head, clasp your hands behind your neck and protect your face with your arms.
- Immediately report stray dogs or dogs displaying unusual behavior to an adult.
- If bitten, report the bite to an adult right away.
For those of you who own dogs, I urge you to be responsible pet owners and good neighbors.
- Spend time with your pet. Dogs are social animals and have a greater chance of developing behavior problems when left alone for long periods of time.
- Socialize your dog so that it feels comfortable around people and other animals. Yes, this includes the neighbor’s cat.
- Don’t tease your dog or play aggressive games with it (like wrestling or tug of war).
- Seek professional advice immediately if your dog develops aggressive or undesirable behavior.
- Obey the leash law.
- Keep your dog’s vaccinations current. Parasite control and dental care are important too, because how your dog feels directly affects how it behaves.
- Spay/neuter your dog. This usually reduces aggressive tendencies and makes males less likely to roam. With females, you prevent unwanted litters and fewer stray dogs are attracted to the area. Animal Trustees of Austin offers reduced rates. They can be reached at 450-0111. They also offer inexpensive vaccinations.
- Make sure your fence is in good condition, keep your gate locked, and do whatever is necessary to keep your dog confined unless you’re out with it on a leash. It’s not safe for your dog to be out without you. It could get lost, stolen, shot, hit by a car or hauled off to the pound. Show your neighbors you’re acting responsibly and that you respect their right to safety as much as you want them to respect your rights. Secure your dogs.
- Pick up waste. If you walk, jog or bike with your dog, carry a plastic bag and clean up after it. It’s not fun cleaning up after your own dogs; it’s even worse when it’s someone else’s. Be a good neighbor!
- Last, but not least, if you have noisy dogs, limit their outings when others may be sleeping.
If you’re considering adopting a dog:
- Consult a professional (like a veterinarian or animal behaviorist) to learn about suitable breeds of dogs for your household. Dogs with histories of aggression are inappropriate in homes with children or if you plan on having a family within the next ten years.
- Before you bring that puppy home, think about the commitment you’re making. Do you have time for a puppy? Space? Adequate shelter? Is he going to be an inside dog or an outside dog? Is your lifestyle better suited to an older dog? Can you afford the vet bills? Food? Think about it carefully. It’s not fair to the dog to change your mind two months or two years into the relationship. That dog has dedicated itself to you for the rest of its life. The feeling should be mutual.