For National Dog Bite Prevention Week (April 10-16), experts provide tips to prevent likelihood of bites

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SCHAUMBURG, Illinois (April 7, 2022)—Dogs are invaluable members of our families and communities, serving as particularly important sources of love and support during the past two years of pandemic-related stress and uncertainty. Dog bites, however, remain a serious public health risk, with more than 4.5 million people bitten by dogs each year in the United States.

During National Dog Bite Prevention Week (April 10-16), a coalition of veterinarians, animal behavior experts and insurance representatives are urging people to understand the risks dog bites pose to people and other pets, and steps to prevent bites from happening.

To assist in these efforts, members of the National Dog Bite Prevention Week Coalition—which includes the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), State Farm, Insurance Information Institute (Triple I), American Humane and Victoria Stilwell Positively—will be hosting a Facebook Live event on Monday, April 11, at 1:30 p.m. Central.

The event, moderated by certified animal behavior consultant Steve Dale, will discuss training tips to help prevent bites, how to safely socialize your dog after a period of isolation, and how to recognize the warning signs that a dog may bite. In addition, the coalition will be releasing the latest dog-related injury claims data. The panelists will also be answering questions submitted by the public during the event.

"From adopting new canine companions, to working from home more often, to having more delivery people coming to the door with packages and meals, many of us have created new home environments and routines over the past two years, all of which can be potentially disruptive to our pets," says Dr. Jose Arce, president of the AVMA. "But no matter the circumstances, it's important that we take steps to prepare our dogs for safe interactions inside and outside the home."

"For thousands of years, dogs have been our best friends, providing us with unconditional love, comfort and protection," says Amber Batteiger, disaster and cruelty response specialist for American Humane. "It is now up to us to be friends to them, as well, by protecting everyone around us – ourselves, our children, and our dogs – from the dangers and consequences of dog bites."

Dogs can bite for many reasons, including improper care or a lack of socialization. All dogs, even well-trained, gentle dogs, are capable of biting when provoked, especially when eating, sleeping or caring for puppies. Therefore, it's vitally important to keep both children and dogs safe by preventing dog bites wherever possible. The National Dog Bite Prevention Coalition provides the following tips:

  • Don't ever leave children unsupervised with dogs, even family pets. More than 50% of all dog-related injuries are to children, and for kids that are under 4 years of age, often those bites are to the head and neck region. American Humane offers a free online booklet available for families with children called "Pet Meets Baby," providing valuable information on introducing a new child to a home with a pet – or a new pet into a home with a child.
  • 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 been mainly interacting with your family since you brought them home, 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.
  • 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.
  • Make sure that you are walking your dog on a leash and recognize changes in your dog's body language where they may not be comfortable.
  • Always monitor your dog's activity, even when they are in the backyard at your own house, because they can be startled by something, get out of the yard and possibly injure someone or be injured themselves.

"Part of my job as a dog trainer and behavior expert is to empower people with knowledge about the dogs with whom they share their lives," said Victoria Stilwell, celebrity dog trainer and behavior expert. "And it's this knowledge that not only enriches the relationship between dogs and people, but helps reduce the likelihood of bites from occurring."

In addition to potential physical and emotional injury, dog bites can be costly. Janet Ruiz, director of strategic communications at the Insurance Information Institute, reported that in 2021, the number of dog bite and related injury claims was 17,989, a 2.2% increase from 2020 with the total cost of claims at $882 million and the average cost per claim of $49,025. The average cost per claim decreased for the first time in 10 years by 1.1% from 2020. California, Florida and Texas had the most claims. "Education and training for owners and pets is key to keep everyone safe and healthy," said Ruiz.

In 2021, State Farm paid over $161 million dollars for over 3,260 dog-related injury claims. Those may be dog bites or they could also be injuries from a dog accidentally pulling someone down the stairs or off a curb.

"As the largest property insurer in the country, State Farm is committed to educating people about pet owner responsibility and how to safely interact with dogs," said Heather Paul, public affairs specialist at State Farm. "It is important to recognize that any dog, including ones that are in the home, can bite or cause injury. Every dog has a unique personality and while breed or type may dictate how they look, how a dog reacts isn't guaranteed by those qualities."

"While dog bites are a serious public health issue, the good news is that most dog bites are preventable," said AVMA President Dr. Arce. "By taking steps to train and properly socialize our dogs, and educate ourselves and loved ones on dog bite prevention, we can help reduce bites and keep dogs in loving homes, where they belong."

For more information on preventing dog bites and National Dog Bite Prevention Week, visit AVMA.org/DogBitePrevention.

About the AVMA

Serving more than 105,000 member veterinarians, the AVMA is the nation's leading representative of the veterinary profession, dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of animals, humans and the environment. Founded in 1863 and with members in every U.S. state and territory and more than 60 countries, the AVMA is one of the largest veterinary medical organizations in the world. Informed by our members' unique scientific training and clinical knowledge, the AVMA supports the crucial work of veterinarians and advocates for policies that advance the practice of veterinary medicine and improve animal and human health.

About State Farm®

For 100 years, the mission of State Farm has been and continues to be to help people manage the risks of everyday life, recover from the unexpected, and realize their dreams. State Farm and its affiliates are the largest providers of auto and home insurance in the United States. Its more than 19,400 agents and approximately 53,400 employees serve over 87 million policies and accounts – which includes auto, fire, life, health, commercial policies and financial services accounts. Commercial auto insurance, along with coverage for renters, business owners, boats and motorcycles, is available. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company is the parent of the State Farm family of companies. State Farm is ranked No. 39 on the 2021 Fortune 500 list of largest companies. For more information, please visit http://www.statefarm.com.

About Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I)

Founded in 1960, the Triple-I, an affiliate of The Institutes, provides objective, fact-based information about insurance while also being a trusted source of unique, data-driven insights which inform and empower consumers. The Triple-I wants people to have the information they need to make educated decisions, manage risk, and appreciate the essential value of insurance.

About American Humane

American Humane is the country's first national humane organization. Founded in 1877, American Humane is committed to ensuring the safety, welfare, and well-being of animals, and our leadership programs are first to serve in promoting and nurturing the bonds between animals and people. For more information or to support our work, please visit www.americanhumane.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About Victoria Stilwell

Victoria Stilwell is a world-renowned dog trainer and behavior expert, best known as the star of the international hit TV series It's Me or the Dog (Animal Planet, US). Having filmed over 130 episodes since 2005, Stilwell reaches a worldwide audience with her philosophy of positive, humane dog training methods. She also served as a judge for Greatest American Dog (CBS) and as the on-camera behavior specialist for Dogs Might Fly (Sky One) and the One Show (BBC1). She recently created, produced and narrated the popular nature series, Dogs With Extraordinary Jobs (Smithsonian Channel).

Stilwell is the founder and President of the Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training and Behavior – the world's premier dog trainer educational institution, creating new generations of positive dog trainers and enhancing "The Future of Dog Training." She is the author of four best-selling books: It's Me or the DogHow to have the Perfect Pet, Train Your Dog Positively, The Secret Language of Dogs and The Ultimate Guide to Raising a Puppy. Her website www.positively.com is a popular destination for dog lovers across the globe.

A regular guest on talk shows, news broadcasts and radio programs in the US, Europe and Asia, Stilwell has been the recipient of multiple international awards and honors. She was the resident pet expert on CNN's HLN and has been a regular columnist for several magazines including The Bark, American Dog, Dogster and Dogs Today. She has been featured in numerous journals, magazines and newspapers including The New York Times, USA Today, Cosmopolitan, Time.com, Oprah Magazine, Rachael Ray Everyday, MSNBC.com, Self Magazine, Shape Magazine, The Daily Mail, the Sunday Times, The Mirror and The Sun.

A co-founder of the National Dog Behavior Conference series, Stilwell also serves on the Advisory Boards of RedRover, The Grey Muzzle Foundation, DogTV, Canine Assistants, and the Georgia Pet Coalition, and is an ambassador for the RSPCA and the Soi Dog Foundation.