Nearly 85 million nice dogs…but any dog can bite
National Dog Bite Prevention Week® takes place during the second full week of April each year, and focuses on educating people about preventing dog bites. The dates in 2021 are April 11-17.
With an estimated population of nearly 85 million dogs living in U.S. households, millions of people—most of them children—are bitten by dogs every year. The majority of these bites, if not all, are preventable.
- The Insurance Information Institute reported that in 2020, insurance companies paid $853.7 million for 16,991 dog bite and injury claims.
- While the number of dog-related injury claims decreased 4.6% compared to the previous year, the amount paid for these claims increased 7.1%—a record high. The average claim payment was $50,245 in 2020, up 12.3% from $44,760 in 2019.
- According to State Farm’s claim information, there were more dog-related injury claims in March 2020 than in any other month last year, with a reported 21.6 percent increase in dog bites compared to March of the previous year.
The increase seen in March 2020 was likely due to the disruption in routines at the start of pandemic lockdowns, when dogs were dealing with owner stress and more people around the house throughout the day. Experts fear another disruption—this time cause by the easing of restrictions for activities outside the home—could lead to another spike in bites.
To help our pets with this transition, the National Dog Bite Prevention Coalition recommends the following tips:
- Make sure your pet is healthy. Not all illnesses and injuries are obvious, and dogs are more likely to bite if they are sick or in pain. If you haven't been to the veterinarian in a while, schedule an appointment for a checkup to discuss your dog's physical and behavioral health.
- Take it slow. If your dog has only been interacting with your family this past year, don't rush out into crowded areas or dog parks. Try to expose your dogs to new situations slowly and for short periods of time, arrange for low-stress interactions, and give plenty of praise and rewards for good behavior.
- Educate yourself in positive training techniques and devote time to interact with your dog.
- Get outside for leash training and allow your dog to do more socializing.
- Gradually start arranging play dates with other dogs and people as allowed, and carefully increase the amounts of time and freedom together. This will help your dog get used to being with other canine companions again.
- Be responsible about approaching other people's pets. Ask permission from the owner before approaching a dog, and look for signs that the dog wants to interact with you. Sometimes dogs want to be left alone, and we need to recognize and respect that.
Learn more about dog bite prevention