good article by Sophia Yin ...
How Animal Care Professionals
and Pet Lovers Can Keep from Being Bitten.
As Dog Bite Prevention week is being recognized across the
USA, the Center for Disease Control reports that 4.7M Americans
are bitten by dogs every year. Nearly 20% of those bitten seek
medical attention and approximately 1000 victims per day
require a visit to the hospital emergency room.
Not surprisingly, one group at risk is animal care
professionals ó veterinarians, groomers, shelter workers
and people who work or volunteer in the animal care field.
According to Dr. Sophia Yin, author of a new textbook and
DVD called *Low Stress Handling, Restraint, and Behavior
Modification of Dogs and Cats*, a majority of bites could
be prevented if animal care professionals recognized the
warning signs and took a more sensitive and deliberate
approach to handling.
Yin has identified a set of low stress techniques that can
help both professionals and pet owners prevent bites.
Here are her tips for preventing dog bites
1. Since most dog aggression is actually due to fear
or anxiety, itís essential for animal healthcare professionals
to recognize the signs of fear and anxiety. The more blatant
signs of fear are that the dog backs away from you, cowers,
or puts its tail between its legs. But dogs exhibit more
subtle signs too, such as averting their gaze, yawning,
licking their lips, moving in slow motion or acting sleepy
when they should be wide awake.
Animal care workers should also be on alert for a slight
lifting of the lip or a sudden tense, frozen posture.
When a dog exhibiting these warning signs is pressured
it is likely to result in a bite.
2. Set up a safe, comfortable environment.
Many dogs are afraid of unfamiliar dogs and people and
are uncomfortable in new environments. As a result itís
essential to make the environment as calm and comfortable
For instance, veterinary hospital waiting rooms should
have enough space or room dividers so that dogs arenít
face-to-face with people or other dogs they fear.
Once their fear and arousal levels rise, theyíll be
more likely to bite as the visit progresses.
3. Make a good first impression by approaching
the dog correctly.
A head-on approach and an outstretched arm can force
a fearful dog to feel like it has to defend itself.
A more appropriate approach is to stand or crouch sideways,
avert your gaze, and let the dog make first contact.
Speaking in a happy voice and tossing multiple small treats
can also change the dogís perception of what youíre up to.
4. Avoid hugging or placing your face into the face
of an unfamiliar dog.
While some dogs may tolerate being hugged, few dogs
actually enjoy it. Even a friendly dog may bite when
an unfamiliar person invades its personal space
in this frightening manner.
5. When possible avoid holding animals down for handling
procedures they dislike. Instead, take the time to train
the pet to enjoy it.
Forcibly restraining dogs for procedures such as a toenail
trim can make the dog more fearful or reactive each time
you try and the dog can become more fearful or aggressive
towards unfamiliar people.
Dogs can be trained to enjoy regular handling procedures
such as pilling, grooming, toenail trims and often in a
very short amount of time ó such as 5 minutes.
The more skilled the handlerís technique at pairing
positive experiences with the previously unsavory handling,
and the fewer bad experiences the dog has had, the quicker
the good behavior can be trained.
See an example of training a dog to enjoy a toenail trim
6. When restraining or repositioning an animal make sure
youíre supporting the animal well so it feels secure.
If youíre placing pressure in the wrong areas or the
animal does not feel secure, your handling can actually
make the animal struggle and become aggressive.
7. Control the dogís movement.
Avoid chasing the dog or letting it pace as these will
cause the dog to become more anxious, excited, or aroused
and consequently more likely to bite. Instead calmly
control movement by keeping an appropriate and consistent
leash length. The leash should be long enough so thereís
no pressure on the dog when stationary but (be) short enough
to keep the dog from pacing.
For more information on the Low Stress Handling Restraint
and Behavior Modification of Dogs and Cats textbook and DVD
set go to www.nerdbook.com/lowstresshandling
Retail price: $149; 1600 color photos, 105 video clips.
For access to viewing additional
chapters and handouts, email
Dr. Sophia Yinís Bio:
Dr. Yin is a veterinarian and applied animal behaviorist,
an executive board member of the American Veterinary Society
of Animal Behavior, a past animal behavior lecturer in
the Animal Science Department at the UC-Davis, and an
She lectures internationally on animal behavior and
teaches low-stress handling-workshops to veterinary staff,
students and animal care professionals across the country
(link to the blog).