Small Dog Safety

posted: 05/15/12
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Small Dog Safety: Is Your Pooch's Bite as Bad as His Bark?
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Each year 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs. And one in five of these bites requires medical attention, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The prevalence of dog bites could be greatly reduced if more canines were trained not to bite. Although small dogs aren't more difficult to train than big ones, there are some special considerations to take into account when training them.

Dogs act aggressively when they want to assert dominance or protect their things, territory or young. They also might become aggressive if they've been abused, are in pain, or have been annoyed past their point of tolerance. While small dogs aren't necessarily more likely to bite than larger breeds, they are more prone to fear aggression which can lead to unpredictable biting behavior. Because of their size, everything looks more threatening to a tiny pooch, so they're more likely to act aggressively from fear. This is not specific to any one breed or gender of dog.

Dogs may also respond through fear aggression when they are scared of unknown or unfamiliar people and places. For example, a small dog raised in a quiet home might be fearful if he encounters a small, quick-moving and noisy child. He may bark, lunge at, and even nip her.

Fortunately, fear aggression is easily prevented and treated through training. Dogs suffering from fear aggression usually lack proper socialization. With hard work from both the dog and his owner, fear aggression can improve and even disappear.

To prevent your dog from nipping at strangers, take some steps to lessen the chance that his fear aggression will kick in. First of all, spay or neuter your dog. Neutered dogs are less likely to bite. Never leave a child unattended with a dog, and don't play aggressive games with your pet, such as tug of war. Instead, teach your dog basic commands such as "sit," "down," "lie," " stay," and "come."

The "roll over" command can be particularly helpful if your dog suffers from fear of aggression. By rolling over, the dog will be in a passive rather than aggressive position. Also, teach your dog to drop his toys so that you won't have to threaten him by reaching in his mouth. Consult with a veterinarian or trainer if aggressive behavior continues.

When facing an aggressive dog, there are some things to can do to stay safe. Remain calm, avoid eye contact (some dogs perceive eye contact as a power challenge), and stand still or slowly back away. If the dog knocks you down, roll into a ball and use your hands to protect your face. If he does bite you, clean small wounds with soap and water. If your wounds are more serious, seek medical attention, and contact the dog's veterinarian to check on vaccination records.

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