Responsible dog ownership prevents injuries and saves lives

From Issue: 
January 2014

Most dogs are friendly, loving creatures. But all dogs have the potential to bite a person, and some dogs can be dangerous. The Canadian Veterinarian Journal reports that on average, one to two human deaths a year can be attributed to dog attacks. In Ontario alone in 2011-2012, there were over 13,000 emergency room visits related to dog attacks, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). Many other bites go unreported. Comprehensive national data on incidents of dog bites and attacks in Canada is not available.

If you are considering dog ownership, do your research. Dogs of some breeds tend to be more aggressive than dogs of others breeds. If you plan on adopting a dog, ask about its history and why it was put up for adoption. Before completing the adoption process, find out what the bylaws and possible restrictions are in your area regarding dog ownership.

Being a responsible dog owner means taking steps to train and socialize your animal. Look into obedience training and opportunities to socialize your pet when it is a puppy. Further, one of the most important things you can do is to spay or neuter you dog to decrease its aggressiveness. Treat your dog well and never put the animal in a position where it feels threatened or teased.

A sick or injured dog is more likely to bite. Be responsible and take your pet for regular veterinary visits and vaccinations.

If your dog exhibits aggressive behaviours, seek the advice of a veterinarian. Biting and attacking behaviours, especially when unprovoked, are not acceptable or safe.

Regularly walk and exercise your dog to keep it healthy and provide mental stimulation. When in public, use a leash to keep control of your dog. Consider muzzling your dog before heading out for a walk. If someone approaches you and your dog while out on a walk, caution the person to wait before petting the dog. That will give your pet time to become comfortable with the stranger. If you are unsure of how your dog will react to strangers, do not let anyone (especially children) pet it.

Dogs protect things they care about, including their food, puppies, favourite toy or owner. They also protect spaces - their own and their owner's. Children need to understand that dogs are protective by nature, and to recognize situations that may frighten or anger a dog.

Never leave babies or young children alone with a dog. Teach children not to play fight with, tease, yell at or chase dogs or other animals. Even very friendly dogs may bite if angry, afraid or hurt. Children should not try to waken a sleeping dog, as the animal may reflexively react and attack when waken.